Director: Andrew Blackburn
Cast: Jessica Francis, Alex Warren, Jackie Howe
Watch Being Nice online in the UK: VHX
Mumblecore goes British in Being Nice, a cute drama about a 20-something finding her way in life.
Jen is an artist who lands a job at an advertising agency, only to find that her aspirations and the working world do not always match up. A young creative having existential dilemmas and learning that (ahem) being nice isn’t always the answer in the real world? It might sound clichéd, but the movie manages to find a moving centre to its familiar tale.
That primarily stems from newcomer Jessica Francis, whose naivety is never less than believable. Faced with a non-working login at work, she calls IT, who give her the brush-off. Later, her boss arrives. “Have you tried calling IT or are you going to just sit there?” he asks. She stammers a reply, before falling silent.
The rest of the ensemble are equally believable, given free rein to improvise their way through each scene. Where that could lead to over-long scenes, like most improvised comedies these days, director Andrew Blackburn is careful to cut moments short – conversations are only as long as they need to be, while the performers consistently underplay their roles.
As a result, even the inevitable romances with the office douchebag and the older, already-spoken-for man ring true. The workplace setting is just as mundanely authentic – Blackburn himself has worked for 11 years in the very agency where the movie is shot – with Alex Warren standing out as Jen’s stubbled senior, who’s weary of the marketing world as she is wary.
But Francis is the key. Appearing in almost every scene, her infectious enthusiasm holds the piece together – and establishes her a new talent to watch out for – making you feel each blow to her hopes or boost to her esteem. Even a potentially distracting subplot involving her mum and a new fella comes across as genuine.
Mumblecore is regarded more as a warning than a movement these days, but Being Nice is a gentle reminder that there is still place for sincere indie cinema. Sweet without becoming cloying, likeable without lingering, it deserves to find an audience on VOD, a platform designed to support exactly this kind of filmmaking. The plot may be overly familiar, but the natural performances brush aside any audience cynicism, replacing it with a charming, wide-eyed innocence. If only more films had that effect.