Jamie Adams’ Bittersweet Symphony doesn’t hit a single note right. An insipid story, pretentious cinematography and dreary indie-acoustic soundtrack make this rom-com drama a mundane, discordant mess.
Iris Evans (Suki Waterhouse) is young musician struggling to write her first Hollywood score. Stuck in her Welsh home at Christmas with writer’s block, her festive season might be significant when her mother’s terminal illness begins to take a turn for the worse. When Iris’ songwriting idol (Jennifer Grey) is sent to the Evans’ home impromptu, the musician finds herself torn between a grieving family and an unexpected romance.
Adams’ screenplay is not a harmony of romance, comedy and tragedy, but a mash-up. Its saccharin sentiments, clichés and contrivances render the movie utterly shallow. The only novelty is the nonchalance about Iris’ bisexuality, the depiction so unblinking that one wonders whether the filmmaker was even aware. As painfully written scenes go nowhere, Adams bridges them with musical montages to suggest emotion and “develop” relationships, while also imploring the audience to believe that Iris’ music is plumbing new depths. Between the platitudinous lyrics, tepid guitar-strummed melodies and Ryan Eddleston’s softly focused, cloying cinematography, one might be confused into thinking that the film is being ironic – a genre parody. However, after half an hour of awkward inertia, it becomes clear that this isn’t the case.
With the director relying on weak visual imagery, the cast’s main trio (Grey, Waterhouse and Poppy Delevingne) are only required to look attractive. Acting-wise, they’re stumped with such tedious characters. Grey is an ageing, vulgar yet lovable American (with cowboy hat and dirty blonde roots to boot) who, of course, shouldn’t drink. Her role is essentially to prop up the young singer with banalities. Waterhouse attempts to inject a bit of quirkiness into her lead performance, but it doesn’t make the privileged millennial any more interesting or sympathetic. Craig Roberts, playing Iris’s bleary-eyed ex-boyfriend, gets a genuine laugh for his quiet, inappropriate desperation.
The saving grace of the montages is that they make this lazy movie mercifully short. Bittersweet Symphony has no verve, no pain and no real point.
Bittersweet Symphony is released in select cinemas on 12th April 2021.
Watch the trailer for Bittersweet Symphony here: