With a premise not too far removed from that of David Wain’s comedy Wanderlust, middle-aged, widower Judith (Tessa Peake-Jones) grows to become so disillusioned and perturbed by her daughter Lily’s (Eleanor Wyld) decision to drop out of law school and join the hippy, sexually free commune Bonobo, she decides to pay her a visit. Having not been in contact for several months, Judith is understandably shocked when first arriving at the sheltered accommodation, greeted by a totally naked Ralph (James Norton) doing his morning exercises. However when the concerned mother meets the founder Anita (Josie Lawrence), she becomes somewhat more intrigued – and less angry – at this peculiar way of life.
While the story itself brings little new to the table, it’s a breath of fresh air to have a middle aged, female protagonist – particularly in a comedy; a genre so often concerned with catering to a teenage audience. Yet to have Judith in the lead brings more poignancy and sincerity to the narrative, with an added depth that derives from her tragic – and yet very human – past. The mother daughter relationship is well-judged too, even if it a little strange having them both spend time together at what can only be described as a sex cult. Still, if you’ve got stuff to sort out, you’ve got stuff to sort out.
However it’s actually within the more comedic, frivolous elements where this film comes undone, revelling far more predominantly in the more dramatic, profound aspects. When studying this protagonist, there are moving undertones as we explore her unshakable loneliness, and her suppressed sexual identity woes. This is where the film comes into its element, and yet regrettably we deviate carelessly away, and into the realm of the absurd, as Knott’s inclination for whimsicality, though charming on occasion, is ultimately somewhat distracting.
Nonetheless, it is rather difficult to make a film in such an environment and not play up to the more quirky aspects of it all. However this debut filmmaker can be accused of going a little overboard, as this offering is a little rough around the edges to say the least. Yet the potential is patently clear, and when finding his feet – and tone – a potentially prosperous career in the industry beckons.