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Life Just Is (2012)
A great debut that shows what can be done on a micro budget
Life Just Is centres around five friends struggling to make the post university transition into fully fledged adulthood.
It chronicles a week in the life of a group of twenty-somethings as they deal with relationship problems, death, unspoken yet mutual attraction and self-conflicting religious debate. It's a look at the hardships faced in that awkward period where young people are expected to go out into the real world, leave the safety of student life behind and find a job as well as try to discover who they really are.
Director and writer Alex Barrett has achieved something quite different in his debut feature. The wide ranging subject matter within the contained environment of minimal sets is something not often seen in British film. The entirely scripted and conversational style is perhaps not what wider audiences will be used to, but it is tackled thoughtfully with some genuinely interesting ideas. He has created a world which is not necessarily all about complicated story arcs but a glimpse into the lives and minds of its' young characters. Life Just Is is less about discovering the answers and more about pondering the questions.
The differing plot threads throughout the film really come alive during the second half of the feature as they separate and are concentrated on individually. Many of the subjects will ring true to audiences of a certain age, particularly to those who find themselves stuck without any real career prospects despite the hard work and money spent on a university education. The story between Jay (Jayne Wisener) and her older boyfriend Bobby (Paul Nicholls) strikes a familiar pain, as despite Jay's feelings for her new man, she just can't open up to him after being hurt from a previous relationship. Intellectual Pete's (Jack Gordon) desperate conversations with Tom (Nathaniel Martello-White) make up some of the more thought-provoking scenes, as Pete struggles to come to terms with his faith, or his emerging lack there of. The subject of religion and its place in today's society is one less explored in mainstream film, but it is handled effectively and is thankfully much more of an open and existential observation of faith than clichéd or proverbial. Tom also has desires for his long term friend Claire (Fiona Ryan), and each day the connection between them seems to grow, despite the fact that neither of them can bring themselves to admit their feelings in fear of ruining their friendship.
There are some strong performances, especially from Jack Gordon and Nathaniel Martello-White who play Pete and Tom. The direction is with a clear style, made up of interesting camera choices and visually pleasing frames. As with the micro-budget nature not everything in Life Just Is is perfectly executed, but what shines through is the artistic vision of the writer/director Alex Barrett. It captures the aptitudes of both cast and crew and acts as a great showcase of future talent. This type of film-making is not often seen in the UK but it will hopefully be encouraged as to widen our current limited market and bring a little bit of the art house into the mainstream. It will be very exiting to see what comes next after such a unique and interesting debut.