Say When review

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In what can only be described as a departure for Keira Knightley, she turns in one of her most endearing and accomplished performances of her career to date, starring as the nostalgia-ridden Megan in Lynn Shelton’s comedy drama, Say When.

On the surface, Megan has it all: an adoring fiancé (Mark Webber), a loving father (Jeff Garlin), and a collection of sophisticated, successful friends. However she’s by no means content and is fed up with the expectancy placed upon her as she nears 30. So, in a desperate, spontaneous bid to reclaim her youth, she retreats backwards, befriending teenager Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz) and reconnecting with her old, juvenile self. But she’s continuously reminded of her actual age, when she starts spending time with Annika’s single father, Craig (Sam Rockwell).

Say When works for one simple reason: Megan. She’s a fascinating entry point into this tale, as a distinctively flawed protagonist. She completely betrays the trust of her partner, who is affable and patient, and makes a series of objectionable decisions that are not easy to abide. In some regards it makes for a character that seems cold, but thanks to the performance by Knightley we remain on-side. The theme of nostalgia is one many can resonate with too, as similarly to pictures such as Obvious Child and Frances Ha, it is another production that explores those approaching 30, and that difficult limbo you’re in where you’re no longer a youngster, nor a fully fledged adult. It makes for a poignant stomping ground, and in this instance, as we see Megan spending time with both Annika and her father, we see both sides of the coin; enhancing the sentiment that we never truly change, and that we’re all as naïve and irresponsible in love and romance as our parents, or children. It’s a thought-provoking idea; one that has most certainly been executed in a more deft, subtle manner than Jason Reitman managed in Men, Women and Children.

In the meantime, it’s always a pleasure to have both Rockwell and Garlin on screen, complete with a degree of charisma and comedic talent between them. However they can’t save this film from mediocrity, as despite the positives that do exist, it remains unfulfilling, and similarly to Shelton’s preceding endeavours, Your Sister’s Sister and Touchy Feely, she presents another film that is good, certainly, but by no means great.

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About Stefan Pape

Stefan Pape is a film critic and interviewer who spends most of his time in dark rooms, sipping on filter coffee and becoming perilously embroiled in the lives of others. He adores the work of Billy Wilder and Woody Allen, and won’t have a bad word said against Paul Giamatti.

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