(Stuart Murdoch, 2014)
Personal passion projects are always something of a worry. By their very nature they suggest self-indulgence, and that is certainly the case for God Help the Girl, written and directed by Belle & Sebastian singer-songwriter Murdoch and inspired by his recent girl-singer-focused side-project.
That is not to say it is bad; it certainly is not. In fact, it has several winning elements and a great deal of breezy charm, but it is also occasionally amateurish and overwhelmingly twee.
It fuses two hugely different narrative strands and moods into one often-awkward confection. In the first, Eve (Emily Browning, carrying the film) struggles with depression and an eating disorder and tentatively mounts a recovery through music. In the second, Eve and her new friends Cassie and James (Olly Alexander) spend a quirky summer lolling around the leafy Victorian suburbs of Glasgow, talking about music, playing it the odd time and generally doing not very much.
Thats it. The songs are generally good, the routines worked out for them sometimes less than that, and much of it feels like it was made by an undergraduate high on the Nouvelle Vague and Jacques Demy. But: it is earnest in an old-fashioned, determinedly unfashionable (despite all the hipster window dressing) manner, and that gives it a quiet integrity and soul which makes it likeable. Murdoch stages some scenes with wit and style.
The actors are winning, which makes a few of their more adolescent conversations just about bearable, while others are touching in the naked vulnerability on display. And everything looks great, from Glasgow to the costumes to the cinematography; vibrant and energetic and pretty all the way through.