Review: Say When (2014)

Say When - 2014 - 1

Director: Lynn Shelton
Screenwriter: Andrea Seigel
Cast: Keira Knightley, Chloë Grace Moretz, Sam Rockwell, Mark Webber, Ellie Kemper, Jeff Garlin, Gretchen Mol & Eric Reidmann
Runtime: 99 min // Certificate: 15

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTdkloyqR6Q]

I have a confession to make; I like the new Keira Knightley. I know she’s a bit one-note, and I know she doesn’t do herself any favours by starring in the same types of films all the time, but I’d honestly watch anything with her in… which is precisely why I ended up going to see her latest effort, Say When, well against my better judgment.

Known in the States as Laggies, a title so mumblecore you’d be forgiven for thinking it was supposed to be a parody, Say When tells the been-there-done-that story of a woman, Megan (Knightley; The Imitation Game) who isn’t quite ready to “grow up” and is still terrified of commitment, despite being with her high-school boyfriend, Anthony (Webber; Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), for over eleven years. When Anthony takes the plunge and proposes, Megan freaks out and decides to take a week off from her life to consider her options. She calls in a favour from a teenager, Annika (Moretz; If I Stay), who she recently bought alcohol for (it’s not as creepy as it sounds…) and asks to stay the week at her house, where she soon starts to fall in love with Annika’s suspicious but humorous Father, Craig (Rockwell; Moon). Can you tell how it’s going to end yet…?

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with Say When, and if you found Knightley’s recent indie effort Begin Again at least mildly tolerable then this shouldn’t be too much of a strain for you either. That said, it’s somewhat disingenuous to pass this off as a “comedy”, because it isn’t particularly funny. It beats along very pleasantly, and it does everything you expect and want it to do as quickly and as harmlessly as it can, which is fine, but it’s definitely one of those films that you’ll forget almost as soon as it finishes. The plot is as pedestrian as they come, the performances are passable but far too self-aware, and the screenplay lacks both the humorous edge and dramatic vigour of the innumerable films from which it borrows its many archetypes and clichés.

Despite this, however, I had fun with Say When and I don’t think it does anything to warrant the drubbing awarded to it by certain more eloquent and intelligent critics than myself. Sure, it’s sentimental and schlocky, but were you really expecting anything else? Say When lays its cards down on the table very early on with its “quirky” characterisation and its “out-there” story, and though the ending might leave a bad taste in your mouth, it’s an altogether harmless and unassuming film that’s only real crime is being a little too smug for its own good. In fact, the one major problem I had with it, above all else, is that the potential for even greater wackiness and self-satisfaction was wasted in the final act on a somewhat mundane and predictable love story that everyone can see coming from the moment it is first signposted.

You only have to watch the trailer to know whether or not Say When is for you or not. It’s a mumblecore, indie comedy, with all the trappings that such a genre entails, and though it isn’t all that funny (I think I laughed properly three times, at a push), it also isn’t anywhere near as execrable as it perhaps could’ve been. I know it sounds like I’m damning the film with faint praise there but I’m not; if you like this type of film, you might like Say When. If you don’t, give it a miss, because it doesn’t do anything you’re not expecting it to.

★★½

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