Starring: Keira Knightley, Sam Rockwell, Chloë Grace Moretz
Director: Lynn Shelton
Running Time: 99 mins
Say When is an American film about a woman who, struggling to adjust to life in adulthood, finds herself fleeing her home for a week and spending time with adolescents as she evades her increasing committments and responsibilities.
Although it’s nothing exceptional, I will say that I enjoyed Say When quite a bit. Its story is hardly the most original, and the character depth is less than impressive, however the film is still really rather heartfelt, thanks to a very strong performance from Keira Knightley, and a relaxed, light atmosphere brought about by director Lynn Shelton.
Let’s start off on the bright side, principally with the lead performance from Keira Knightley. In comparison to her roles a good ten years ago, Knightley has really grown into the independent scene, with performances in the likes of Begin Again far surpassing my expectations of her at the time. Once again, her turn here in Say When is absolutely wonderful, as she combines an effortless likability with a really heartfelt performance that turns what at first seems like a rather frustrating character into one that you can really relate to and care for.
The story centres on a woman who continues to struggle to grow into adulthood, while all her friends have moved on from their adolescence. In that, there’s the expectation that the film would focus on her immaturity and lack of committment, however what shines through is a story about a woman that’s just found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time, and is struggling to find a way out.
Sure, the way in which she goes about many of her methods isn’t the most mature – running away to live with a teenager for a week just to escape – but it is a story that feels very genuine as a result, and with Knightley’s very likable performance, I was perfectly willing to follow her as she tries to negotiate a difficult period in her life.
Another plus from the film comes in the form of Lynn Shelton’s direction. While the film may occasionally lack impressive depth, Shelton brings a very pleasing atmosphere to the table that works well in tandem with the lead performance to make the film an enjoyable watch. It’s an elegant, well-paced film that’s never overly shrill or shouty, while its comedic side is toned down to a very acceptable level, not going overboard to make you laugh in compensation for any lack of real dramatic meat, something I really appreciated.
The only issues I did find with this film came from that lack of depth. While it’s an enjoyable and engaging watch that’s actually rather likable, it isn’t the world’s most interesting film, something that comes from a combination of a rather predictable story – with a very formulaic final act in particular – and a general lack of strong character development of the rest of the cast.
Knightley’s character is interesting, however the likes of Sam Rockwell, Chloë Grace Moretz and more just aren’t interesting enough for you to give them your sympathies, with their personalities and emotional baggage being summed up in a frustratingly brief manner – Rockwell is lonely, Moretz is frustrated with her dysfunctional home life etc., something that really wasn’t enough for me to care deeply about the supporting characters and the story as a whole.
Overall, while Say When isn’t the world’s most perfect indie movie, it’s a surprisingly pleasant and elegant watch, with a wonderful lead performance from Keira Knightley and strong direction from Lynn Shelton, coming together to make a film that will engage and entertain you for its duration, although not go one step deeper and really enthrall you with its emotions and drama, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.2.