Simon Amstell lays himself bare in his semi-autobiographical feature debut.
Simon Amstell burst onto the scene as the quirky presenter of Popworld in 2000, where he became known for his left-field brand of comedy, which he usually aimed at the celebrities he was interviewing.
From there he went on to a successful stint as the Never Mind the Buzzcocks host, before he quit to focus on his stand-up and BBC comedy Grandma's House, which he wrote and starred in.
And it feels like all that groundwork has led him perfectly to this exact spot - writing and directing semi-autobiographical tale Benjamin, his feature film debut.
For the screen version of Amstell's life, we drop into the world of budding filmmaker (sound familiar?) Benjamin (Colin Morgan), a Northern Irish artsy type living in a trendy London flat with his cat. It's been seven years since Benjamin's first, and last, offering, which made a big splash in the indie film world and won him both accolades and plenty of praise, and he's now gearing up for his follow-up.
However, he is riddled with self-doubt, which we soon see isn't just contained to his work.
With the 'help' of self-obsessed publicist Billie (Jessica Raine), Benjamin gets ready for the release of his new film, No Self, a wallowing piece of cinema that examines his own shortcomings, namely his inability to find love. Starring hotshot new actor, and Billie's sometime boyfriend, Harry (Jack Rowan), Benjamin agonises over the final product - and, it seems, rightly so, as it gets trounced by critics, including Mark Kermode in a hilarious cameo.
At the same time as his 'new talent' glow quickly starts to dim, the hapless, and really quite damaged, soul begins to find love with student musician Noah (Phenix Brossard). But, like his career, Benjamin can never fully let go. Their courting is sweet and gentle, but runs into trouble more than once, with the protagonist, who's social awkwardness goes deeper than just verbal diarrhoea, managing to wreck the romance.
Benjamin has some real laugh out loud moments, lots of them thanks to Morgan's flawless delivery and Amstell's witty observations. His writing and direction are smart, sharp and tragic in equal measures and his digs at the art and film world really hit the mark. Plebs star Joel Fry is also on funny form as Benjamin's semi-depressed best mate Stephen.
The main character's near debilitating flaws also make for a nice contrast to the comedic moments, with the light and shade aspect giving the 85-minute run time a real and raw feel.
However, there are too many scenes that go nowhere and serve little to no purpose to the story as a whole. The movie is by no means a fast-paced comedy, more a meandering portrait of a struggling artist. By the end, it doesn't really feel as though you've watched a feature film; more like you've spent a few weeks following Benjamin around as he navigates life.
© Cover Media