Director: Aki OmoshaybiStars: Aki Omoshaybi, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Taye Matthew, Amy Manson
British writer-director-star Omoshaybi’s feature debut is both a sombre social realist-style depiction of two twentysomethings struggling to make ends meet and stay on track in contemporary Portsmouth, and a profoundly affecting romantic drama. It begins with a chance meeting at a newsagent, bookended by a courthouse and a business centre, where Kyle (Omoshaybi) offers to help out a young woman Jamie (Bennett-Warner) when she realises that she hasn’t enough money for her purchase.
Chatting outside, Kyle tells Jamie he is a solicitor on his lunchbreak. Jamie tells him that she works in a nearby office. Neither is true; Kyle is currently doing community service while lodging with his reluctant, bitter mother, while Jamie is a struggling single mum looking for work while studying for her accountancy exams. A succession of dates follows where a real connection is made, despite the subterfuge and evasions.
This being his debut, Omoshaybi’s overloads the characters with issues and backstory, to the extent that the picture is occasionally redolent of Ken Loach at his most didactically melodramatic. But there’s tentative hope too, suggested by the piercing sunshine that illuminates Kyle as he cycles around his estate. What really lifts the material though are the disarmingly heartfelt performances from the leads, particularly Bennett-Warner as a woman torturously deliberating over taking that risky leap into romance.
Real is released in selected cinemas on 11th September and available to stream on BFI player
David Willoughby @DWill_Crackfilm