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Dating Amber review – gay teenagers' pretend love fails to blossom

The Guardian logo The Guardian 03/06/2020 Peter Bradshaw

David Freyne’s eager-to-please coming-of-age movie set in the 90s has the sort of high concept that could well have been greenlit in the 90s, though for an adult romcom, not a high-school film. Fionn O’Shea plays Eddie, a high-school kid preparing for his leaving certificate in County Kildare in Ireland; his dad, Ian (Barry Ward), is a senior army officer at the nearby barracks at the Curragh Camp and expects Eddie to follow in his footsteps. Meanwhile, Amber (Lola Petticrew) is a disaffected teenager in Eddie’s year who yearns to escape to what she imagines to be the punk nirvana of London.

What Eddie and Amber have in common is that they are secretly gay, and people are beginning to whisper about their apparent lack of interest in dating the opposite sex. So of course they find it mutually convenient to be each other’s beard, creating the public fiction of being a couple to get the homophobes off their backs. But this creates a strangely intense relationship between them that isn’t easily shrugged off when real romantic-partner candidates come into view.

It’s a well-meaning film that seeks to portray gay identity without problematising it unduly; there are obvious echoes of the recent Netflix drama Sex Education – which could have got nowhere near the screens in the 90s. But it’s all a bit earnest and derivative and sometimes a bit lachrymose, despite some perfectly decent performances.

There is a lovely, warm speech at the end from Sharon Horgan playing Eddie’s mum. For me, this needed a bit more of an original spark.

• Dating Amber is available on Amazon Prime Video from 4 June.

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