Dating Amber is an utterly charming British teen romcom that harks back to other films in this genre but also moves it significantly forward. It centres around two 90s kids about to leave school in Southern Ireland, she with big dreams of running away to London and he scared of any ambition that will drive him away from what is expected of him at home. When they meet and connect with one another things change though and through the strength they find together their plans begin to change. It has elements reminiscent of Some Kind of Wonderful, She’s All That, Bend It Like Beckham, Submarine and Ladybird and heavy overtones of Sing Street. This isn’t a criticism though as it is actually better than a lot of these other movies, not least because it also sits nicely alongside something like Love, Simon. The thing stopping the young couple being together here, you see, is that they are not even marginally attracted each other, both of them being gay.
So you get all the sweetness of their developing relationship but it is different as it can only ever be a friendship, albeit a close and important one. Platonic male and female friendships are rarely explored in films for reasons that Harry and Sally famously laid out three decades ago. Films like The Mirror Has Two Faces and Dan in Real Life have cemented the assumption and while some minor players occasionally challenge the rule, for every Charles and Scarlett there is a Charles and Fiona. Even Friends couldn’t see it through, never letting Ross and Rachel not be each other’s lobsters and getting Monica and Chandler together at the end of only Season 4.
With the sexual orientation of both main characters here, the spectre of one falling for the other is never raised and it leaves the film to nicely explore their growing dependency in a way you rarely see on screen. Of course there is the whole gay best friend thing but that’s not what’s happening here either. Homosexuality is not a sidebar; it is the main point. There are some tendencies toward the manic pixie dream girl idea but the set up steers us away from this too. As I say, it puts you in mind of tropes and things other movies have done but ultimately it is more individualist than that.
None of this is to say that at least one of the pairing doesn’t wish there could be some other connection. Amber is comfortable with her sexuality but chooses to hide it for an easier life in her conservative Catholic town, hence her ‘dating’ Eddie, but Eddie is still coming to terms with his. This is where the drama comes from and this is touchingly handled as well.
I really enjoyed Dating Amber. It an important film for representation but never feels overly conscious of this and has some strong laughs among the struggles. The performances of the two leads Lola Petticrew and Fionn O’Shea are totally engaging and you never quite know where their journey is going. It might step away from really shaking expectations at the very end but actually it is better for it.
The Ripley Factor:
Interestingly the name of the film makes the female lead the title character but not the protagonist. The movie might be marginally more about Eddie than her but I can’t help but feel that this makes her more secondary than she deserves. This girl is certainly not there as a plot point to serve the guy’s story like in Chasing Amy or Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Amber is confidant and sure of herself and could be an inspiration to others in similar situations. It may not be the 90s anymore but I’m not sure that we have moved far past the type of judgements and insults that Amber faces. She is also quite sex positive and definitely has her moments of bravery.