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Booked Out follows the quirky exploits of the Polaroid loving artist Ailidh as she spies and photographs the occupants of her block of flats. Jacob, the boy next door who comes and goes quicker than Ailidh can take pictures. Jacqueline, the mysterious girl that Jacob is visiting and the slightly crazy Mrs Nicholls who Ailidh helps cope with her husbands continuing existence after his death. As Ailidh gets closer to winning Jacobs affection the world that they all live in will be changed forever. Written by
I didn't know what to expect with this but was lucky enough to attend a special screening as part of the films tour across the UK in Newcastle.
The plot is easy to relate to, following quirky young lady Ailidh and the world within her apartment block and imagination. It is her encounters with Jacob and Mrs Nichols which truly bring the film together and evoke life affirming thoughts; the importance of human kindness, tolerance, and also the risk of judging others before you know them fully. Her passion for writing, drawing, taking pictures and telling stories is particularly inspiring and emotional. It is like a coming of age, but with one who is already quite wise, and her neighbours feed off each-others zest and intuition to help their various problems.
The opening credits are delightful and innovative, an apt introduction to Ailidh's imagination, and the score is also excellent and engaging, fitting the character and plot development perfectly, I loved hearing Roisin Murphy when Jacob and Ailidh attend the fancy dress party! Ailidh and Jacob are outsiders, and I found them so relatable especially in this scene as they reminded me so much of me and my friends! The direction is spirited and admirable, with techniques such as keeping actors Claire and Mirren apart until they actually meet to great effect (reminiscent of Mike Leigh with Brenda Blethyn and Marianne Jean-Baptiste in Secrets & Lies).
Overall this is a delightful, ray of sunshine, although there are important bleak undertones dealt with, this does not detract from the films purpose. It is sad, funny, and refreshing. If you are a fan of An Education, or Mike Leigh's work you'll definitely find something to enjoy here. It is just a shame that it didn't receive widespread distribution (shame on top distributors who rejected it!) so more people could see it, as it could definitely be eligible for top film awards. Mirren Burke gives a confident, snappy, illuminating debut. Claire Garvey is subtly engaging and effective. Rollo Weeks continues development and transition from excellent performances in youth (such as in The Lost Prince) and is remarkable as the boy next door. Of course as usual Sylvia Sims is brilliant, giving great depth and humour to a character who many will and should relate to.
As an aside I'd like to mention after the show I met and chatted with director Bryan O'Neill and lead actress Mirren Burke. They are such lovely and genuine people, I was embarrassed at how much I clicked with Mirren and felt like she was asking me all the questions! We talked about film, acting, Mike Leigh, Lesley Manville, writing...I felt so lucky and star struck yet also felt like we'd been friends for ages! Here is a talented director with an eye for real human stories, and a very talented and kind young actress, and I hope they both, upon giving such an impressive debut, go onto great success on their next projects as they deserve it. See this if you can, the future is bright for them, and also congratulations to the more established crew. Booked Out is a treat for those who enjoy films about real people dealing with real issues and situations in a sensitive and funny way.
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