Written and directed by Alex Barrett, serving as his feature directorial debut and premiered at this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival, Life Just Is follows four university graduates living in London – Pete (Jack Gordon), Tom (Nathaniel Martello-White), Claire (Fiona Ryan>) and Jay (Jayne Wisener) – who find themselves having trouble making the move into adult life. As they hang out, throw parties, and attempt to navigate their new responsibilities, romantic tensions stir and desires to find a spiritual answer to life’s meaning arise, as the true meaning of their friendships are put to the test.
Freeing himself from any distractions due to the film’s small budget, Barrett’s directorial style is very simple, but Life Just Is avoids the flaws of many independent films and doesn’t fall flat to inexpensive looking frames or poor definitions. With minimal cinematic interferences and the use of only a couple of sets, the focus is instead put solely onto the characters and their relationships, allowing Barrett to create strongly developed characters. This is a key success to this film, as the audience get to know the small cast well, and see their characters grow as they begin to discover who they really are for themselves.
With the intention from Barrett to explore the lives of young adults in today’s society, Life Just Is is a highly relatable film, especially as a recent university graduate myself. Whilst we have series such as Skins and Fresh Meat currently airing in the UK, the film is a fresh look at this twenty-something age group, exploring a number of realistic situations that the young adults of today are faced with. Without using any comic or dramatic exaggerations these character portrayals are very real and easy to relate to, but this also makes it difficult to find any of them genuinely likeable, as the film’s compacted 102 minutes falls short on allowing us enough time to become emotionally invested in their roles.
What the characters do benefit from, however, is the superb performances that the largely unknown cast pull off. Whilst some of the actors can be recognised from TV series such as Misfits, The Inbetweeners and Eastenders, this is the first feature leads for them all, and for that they deserve a great credit for holding up the film pretty strongly.
The only problem I have with Life Just Is is that it doesn’t completely work as a film, though it does stretch beyond the efforts of a TV series set up. Whilst its conversational style allows the film to explore a range of subject matters in depth, it only makes for a thought-provoking film rather than an entertaining one. Sat around the living room watching the film with my own friends, we had to find distractions of our own and ended up discussing our own experiences of the situations that the film was exploring as it went along to keep us from losing focus. Whilst this emphasises the film and its characters are engaging, encouraging you to put yourself in their shoes and attempt to understand their situations as if you were sat around the coffee table with them, it’s not a film that you will easily find yourself drawn into.
Nevertheless, Life Just Is is a great effort for Barrett’s debut, ensuring that we will be keeping a safe eye on his future work.
Set to have its theatrical release on 7th December, Life Just Is is will be released on DVD on 10th December.