VOD film review: Say When (Laggies)
Ivan Radford | On 25, May 2020
Director: Lynn Shelton
Cast: Keira Knightley, Sam Rockwell, Chloë Grace Moretz, Kaitlyn Dever, Ellie Kemper
Watch Say When online in the UK: Amazon Prime
“You can’t keep putting aside what you want for some imaginary future. You’ve gotta suck it up and go with you gut.” That’s the advice Megan (Keira Knightley) gives to Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz) in Say When, a film that might look like a rom-com but uses the genre as a springboard to explore the concept of adulthood in wonderfully nuanced depth.
When we meet Megan, she’s well into a relationship with her high school sweetheart and all set to marry him. But while everyone else around her is also getting hitched, she slowly finds herself feeling increasingly out of sync with their life goals and domestic demands. When she catches her dad cheating on her mum, that disenchantment doubles, sending her spiralling into a mid-life crisis – and she ends up fleeing her fiancee and pretending to be at a self-improvement seminar for a week.
In reality, she’s hiding out at Annika’s house. How does she know Annika? They bumped into each other after Megan ran away from her friend’s wedding and Megan bought her some alcohol. Annika, we should probably mention, is a teenager. A grown woman laying low in a teenager’s living room? It’s not big or clever, but Say When takes that unlikely starting point to craft something that’s both. Over seven days, she begins to grapple with what she wants in life, while also helping Annika with her relationship with her absentee mum.
It’s this relationship, most of all, that defines the movie, rooting what is ostensibly a romantic comedy in a sweet, and funny, story of plutonic friendship, even when the support that friendship involves comes in the unlikeliest and most dubious form. Annika, though, does have a dad – Craig – a world-weary divorce lawyer, and during the course of Megan’s covert sofa-crashing, sparks do start to fly. Craig, incidentally, is played by Sam Rockwell, and that pairing of Rockwell and Knightley ensures that the romantic undercurrent that does exist is at once convincing and sincere yet also generously understated; the focus remains on Megan’s own existential issues, taking what might normally be a stoner character played by a dude and adding a layer of social pressures and personal expectations that Knightley navigates with warmth and charisma.
Giving the stars the space to make this low-key comedy work is Lynn Shelton, whose knack for juggling authentic emotions with complex characters made her one of modern indie cinema’s most engaging filmmakers. Co-writing with Andrea Seigel, she paints a tale of immaturity and identity that never feels aimless, finding room for laugh-out-loud arguments (Ellie Kemper as Megan’s friend steals several scenes) without sacrificing the humanist drama.
Frankenstein (2018) is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.