Side by Side (London Film Festival 2013)
Although Side by Side is clearly aimed at a young audience, there isn’t much teenage spirit – which is bizarre considering the narrative revolves around two children under 15 running away from home.
Lauren (Bel Powley) and Harvey (Alfie Field) take an ill-advised trip to Scotland in search of a lost grandfather. The journey’s catalyst is to avoid Lauren’s guardian, who also happens to be her scrupulous sporting agent. The two siblings have each other and learn to survive exactly as the title suggests, which would be more sickly sweet if it wasn’t for the lack of scurried focus – profiting from the internet, qualifications for the Olympics, they’re all jumbled together.
Well, to a certain extent. Side by Side falls apart with a central relationship that’s never particularly frayed, at least not more than expected between a brother and sister spending that much time together. The comedic angle also subdues any sense of danger, enough so that Lauren, a 15-year-old, hitchhikes on her own with a middle-aged stranger – and without making a radical point.
Ultimately, when there’s little character growth, narrative edge or amusement, it’s a struggle to find the purpose of Side by Side. Powley and Field are both likeable actors, sure, but are stuck with painfully contrived lessons (mainly through strangers who are a script beat away from summarising their life story). If there is a lesson, it’s to follow the advice of Harvey and stick to computer games.
Side by Side is making its world premiere as part of the London Film Festival’s “Family” strand. Screening information can be found here.
103 mins approx