Quintessentially an indie pop film, Svengali is a feel-good screenplay based on writer Jonny Owen’s internet series. The film centres around Dixie, a lovable but “not the smartest” protagonist, who leaves his humble homeland, Wales, to follow his dreams of managing a band like record label owner Alan McGee, when he stumbles across the Premature Congratulations, an unruly rock band whom he believes will be the biggest act since the Rolling Stones. After an intimate but unpretentious farewell at a local Welsh pub, Dixie heads for the Big Smoke of London with girlfriend Shell (Vicky McClure) in tow and little more than a small wedding fund donation and warm wishes to set them on their way.
The film is full of fun juxtapositions: Dixie’s alluring naivety and geniality contradicts with his dreams of following in the footsteps of the Svengali figures he admires – a theme that Owen follows right the way through. Then, there is the stark contrast of living in bohemian London with rural Britain: harsh and rich London compared with the warmth of impoverished Wales. And, lastly, the reality that comes of mixing ambition with love.
Hollywood, this film is not. If you are looking for fancy camera shots or special effects, then turn away now. Svengali is typically British made. It embodies gritty Britain in all its glory with its brassy characters, some well-known cast members, and delightful dry sense of humour only the Brits are able to do well.
However, despite its lively storyline, the plot seems to move along too quickly at times, leaving gaps in the narrative where there should be seemingly smooth transitions from scene to scene. Nonetheless, it is a funny and engaging British film, which will keep you entertained right up to its rather surprising ending.
Svengali is released nationwide on 21st March 2014.
Watch the trailer for Svengali here: