Albatross sees director Niall MacCormick paired with screenwriter Tamzin Rafn. MacCormick comes from a background of TV directing, whereas this is Rafn’s first foray into feature scriptwriting. What they both manage to produce is a film full of intelligence, humor and great characters.
Albatross is about Emelia (Jessica Brown Findlay) who starts a new job at The Cliff House, a small hotel run by the dysfunctional Fischer family. The father Jonathan (Sebastian Koch) is an author, suffering from writer’s block. The mother, Joa (Julia Ormond) is a former actress who gave up her ambition, to help run the hotel and look after the family. The eldest daughter Beth (Felicity Jones) is introverted and studying hard to get in to Oxford and escape this small town. Whilst the youngest daughter Posy (Katie Overd) is being nurtured in to becoming a performer by her mother.
Jonathan believes Emelia shows promise as an aspiring writer, whilst Emelia is spurred in by the belief she is following in the footsteps of her grandfather Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle. He begins to tutor her, but the relationship quickly crosses in to a love affair.
Jessica Brown Findlay puts in the kind of performance that is worthy of a BAFTA. She effortlessly manages to deliver wit and sarcastic lines with like ability. Her character is such, that it could of easily descended in to annoying territory instead there is multifaceted character development in which a flawed character is allowed to grow and earn respect.
The casting all round is incredibly spot on. Sebastain Koch brings humor to the depressive character of Jonathan, someone so hung on to the success of his past that he revels in it and remains far removed from the outside world, even lacking in parenting skills. He in some ways is trying to relives his glory through Emelia, funnily providing rather hollow and inane corrections on the pieces of writing that Emelia brings him.
The matrimonial banter between Johnathan and Joa adds a small touch of humorous reality in both trying to throw the blame of parenting at one another. There can be comparisons in the same sort of dysfunctional cohesion in a family such as that in Little Miss Sunshine. But as inspiration rather than facsimile.
Albatross succeeds on every level. It’s intertwining plot strands perfectly help fit and complement each other, whilst every character has significance and depth moved along by it’s sharp dialogue. Of the films in the same comedy drama vein this year, Albatross stands out as a film to take note of.