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Cannes Market Watch: Life Just Is

By Robert Koehler on May 24, 2012

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Nothing says "indie" more than a movie about the travails of twentysomethings, and at first blush, British writer-director Alex Barrett's feature debut, Life Just Is, would seem to fulfill all of the usual clichés. Two sets of London roommates, almost all of whom are university graduates working well below their skill sets, are observed over a week-long period that involves potentially life-changing choices. If this sounds like a million other micro-budget projects annually unveiled at Sundance, Barrett's ensemble piece is nevertheless several strata above the sort of material hatched by American festival workshops.

For one thing, this is a written movie, and not in the vein of Mike Leigh's ensemble work, but in a seam that can be traced back to Hal Hartley's early films, as well as a certain brand of British television dominated by smart writing and casting. In under 90 minutes, Barrett manages to craft a light but hardly witless set of exchanges between friends, finding ways to delineate each of them while avoiding stereotypes at every turn, and remaining genuinely interested in the paths of bright young people in the process of becoming their full selves.

The trio of male roommates—morose, intellectual Pete (Jack Gordon), more carefree Tom (Nathaniel Martello-White), and the less defined David (Will de Meo)—are pals with Claire (Fiona Ryan) and Jay (Jayne Wisener), who are themselves roomies. Jay is starting to see Bobby (Paul Nicholls), 10 years older but might as well be 50, so great is the generational chasm. So begins a set of sometimes facile, sometimes fascinating interactions and character developments that contain their share of surprises and honesty. This is precisely the sort of small, quiet film that festivals lust to discover—which is certain to happen with Barrett's charming debut during the upcoming festival season.

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