TThe surprise hit of After We Collided may herald a box office trend for the romantic drama YA, but this debut feature is ill-suited to capitalize on. Although this is another contemporary tale of teenage lovers, Philophobia comes from a bygone era to which we must never return.
Joshua Glenister plays Kai, an aspiring writer whose maturity in the Cotswolds is very obviously based on that of the writer-director. Kai spends his A-level revision time smoking spliffs on the roof of the library with his two classmates, thinking of a girl and dreaming of escaping “that shit hole”. There are other characters as well, but none of them have a lot of hopes, dreams or interiority. These are punchlines for the kind of classy sheep jokes that even The Inbetweeners would consider lame. Or, like the rolling fields and the sun-drenched lake, they’re just another pretty part of the landscape.
In today’s supposedly waking world, it’s unusual to see a movie showing attitudes towards women that have hardly changed since Bender sexually assaulted Claire under a desk in The Breakfast Club. At least in Porky’s, the male characters – motivated only by extreme excitement – were just as one-dimensional as the female characters. Philophobia strives to demonstrate just how sensitive a soul Kai is, from that pretentious title to the dreary emo soundtrack. This only makes the extent to which other characters are underwritten more strikingly, especially the perma-sulky projection of teenage fantasy, Grace (Kim Spearman).
A successful teen drama requires either the authentic emotional immediacy of youth or the hindsight of maturity. As Philophobia lacks both, her overly long sex scenes just seem lustful. Molly Ringwald’s post- # MeToo essay on John Hughes should be required reading for everyone involved.