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Stars: Sebastian Koch, Julia Ormond, Felicity Jones, Peter Vaughan, Harry Treadaway, Thomas Brodie Sangster, Jessica Brown Findlay

Director: Niall MacCormick

It’s nothing to do with giant seabirds. In the context of this small-scale coming of age comedy-drama, “Albatross’ is “an oppressive and inescapable fact or influence from the past”. So now we know.

Findlay, impressive in a career-making debut, is a character with the eponymous bird around her neck. 17-years-old and an aspirant writer, she believes she is following in the footsteps of her celebrated grandfather Arthur Conan Doyle. However, like so many would-be writers in reel and real life, she has to work for a living and comes to the small seaside hotel owned by a suitably (for the needs of drama) dysfunctional family. Paterfamilias Koch is a blocked writer with a single success to his name, his wife Ormond runs the hotel and resents it and their feisty 17-year-old daughter Jones hopes to escape to university.

Enter Brown, sassy and sexy, who proceeds to encourage Jones’ natural teenage rebelliousness, along with seducing her father (an interesting cure for writer’s block which sadly isn’t available to all writers) while eventually discovering with the help of her grandfather Vaughan that her heritage may not be all that she hopes for…

Findlay’s memorable performance illuminates and adds welcome depth Tamzin Rafn’s screenplay and the credible relationship that develops between her and Jones gives the story with its strong comic-dramatic spine, with Jones joining Findlay in delivering some deliciously cynical dialogue and comic tropes. Koch and a strangely uncharismatic Ormond do everything that’s asked of them while director MacCormick sensibly avoids unnecessary auteuristic flourishes to deliver a movie that has a greater entertaining impact than its patently low budget.

Alan Frank

UK 2010. UK Distributor: CinemanNX. Colour by deluxe.
89 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 3.

Review date: 13 Oct 2011