Josie Long: Let's Go Adventure | Film review by Jay Richardson

Josie Long: Let's Go Adventure

Note: This review is from 2013

Film review by Jay Richardson

Introducing this double-bill of their Glasgow-set short films, Let's Go Swimming and Romance And Adventure, Josie Long and her collaborator, director Doug King, slap on a couple of baseball caps, lest they're not taken seriously as filmmakers.

It's a typically goofy touch from Long, whose natural exuberance and enthusiasm for these low-budget projects is heightened by the fact that the second of these shorts was completed exactly a year ago, on Bonfire Night, and because many of the cast and crew are present at the Glasgow Film Theatre this evening.

Irrespective of the abundant goodwill towards them, the pair have little need for modesty though, because the 30-minute shorts are both rather brilliant. Funny, heartfelt, bittersweet and reflecting a drifting generation, even the pair's sharing of a couple of unnecessary disclaimers about shortcomings in the casting and locations sets up extra laughs when the films play.

'Kind of autobiographical but not really', Long initially imagined the films to be distinct from her stand-up. Yet she came to appreciate, as anyone who's seen her angst-ridden recent material will too, that they're inextricably connected, an impression reinforced by the routines she performs between the two screenings and several recent 'bits' making it into the script.

The sense of a personal journey, a physical and mental relocation after she fell out of love with London and in her personal life, underscores everything, blurring the boundaries between fact and fiction, personality and authorship.

The shorts only follow each other loosely, with plotlines carrying through but the relationships between the principal characters shifting. In each, though, Long plays Josie, a feckless, disaffected Londoner hoping to rediscover herself in Glasgow's 'indie theme park'.

Suffice to say, the Glasgow of her imagination is very much that of Belle and Sebastian's, the vast, leafy parks of The Dear Green Place, the studenty hangouts of coffeshop-cum-secondhand bookshops in the West End and its cool city centre music venues, rather than the Gorbals or East End.

But in Let's Go Swimming especially, Long is partly sending up her own rose-tinted spectacles. There are a couple of cameos from Glaswegian indie music luminaries, one of whom gives her extremely short shrift. There's a hilarious callback in which her innocent abroad, struggling to comprehend local slang, adopts some sectarian graffiti as a motivational mantra. Moreover, her new flat is every bit as dark as the one she left behind, though this too prompts an amusing visual sequence.

Even without the anti-Tory tub-thumping of Long's stand-up it remains implicit, as Josie confesses to shame at being English and draws a clear distinction drawn between Glasgow and the London she 'can't trust'. She's both a wide-eyed tourist, snapping away at things that amuse her on her phone, and a pseud, affecting Scottish greetings, with the locals invariably picking up on the desperation beneath her desire to ingratiate and integrate.

Some shun her, while others, such as a kindly church cleaner (stand-up JoJo Sutherland) treat her like an utterly lost soul. The only connections she sustains, at least for a time, are with a plain-spoken pensioner and an affable barista, Darren (Darren Osborne). Might her conversations with him lead to something more?

Cheerfully elaborating on the malaise that prompted her to write these films, Long returned to the mic to speak of her own break-up and loneliness while living in a fashionable London warehouse, a sense of being on 'the losing team' as a socialist and obsession with 'things to do before you're 30' lists.

Evoking mortality with a bluntness reminiscent of Simon Amstell, and with nods to Logan's Run, she brutally demolished one such list published by MSN.co.uk, highlighting the disparity between its clichéd aspirations of affluence and opportunity and the reality for the young-ish struggling to realise their dreams in the teeth of such patronising bullshit.

All of which affords Romance and Adventure a more zeitgeisty context than the film might otherwise convey on its own, notwithstanding Josie and Darren's boredom with their circle of settled, middle-class friends. Set 18 months after the first film, it's significantly better, with the characters more developed, the bond between them more nuanced.

Josie is more knowing and cynical this time and Darren less of a Bret McKenzie-type, that Manic Pixie Dream Girl equivalent of a good-looking, bearded indie-hipster, extended beyond the archetypes that the first film only had a brief time to establish. Comedy fans will enjoy identifying the likes of stand-ups Nadia Kamil, Jo Neary, Ashley Storrie and Chloe Philp in supporting roles.

Now flatmates and platonic friends, that doesn't prevent Josie and Darren pretending otherwise for some wickedly funny scenes at the expense of their 'square' acquaintances. Josie's reasons for coming to Glasgow are further revealed, but the heart of the story is their fond relationship, nicely established through bantering dialogue that feels authentic, the laughs deriving from the characters rather than set-ups. They're not really going anywhere in life and clearly have their failings. But they're witty, slightly eccentric and seem like they'd be good company.

Crucially, you want to spend more time with them and find out if things work out, so it's to be hoped that Long and King are successful in securing funding for their planned feature-length film next April. Romance and Adventure was crowd-funded by friends, family and well-wishers but they're seeking a production company to back them this time round, which seems like a no-brainer on this evidence.

If you enjoy Long's stand-up you'll undoubtedly enjoy these first forays into film. But they're much more substantial than a sideline, signalling an exciting new creative outlet for her.

Review date: 6 Nov 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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