Dawn (Janet Bamford) is a single mother doing her best to raise her children Josh (Daniel Booth) and Nicola (Olivia Sweeney) whilst battling depression and nightmares which she blames on a traumatic event from her childhood. Whilst her children try to do their best to help her, Dawn’s mood swings make her difficult to be around and she seeks help from regression therapist Dave (James Devlin) to try and come to terms with her past. With none of her family believing her, Dawn has nowhere to turn and is blind to the issues of her own children; Josh is trying to come to terms with his sexuality and Nicola is going off the rails. Can she battle her demons and reconnect with her children?
Celluloid is the second movie from writer/director Lloyd Eyre-Morgan and follows on from 2013’s well-received Dream On. As with his previous film, Celluloid started off life as a play before being turned into a movie. The film attempts to tackle a variety of issues with Dawn’s past at the centre of it all.
She claims to have been sexually abused by her father when she was a child but none of her family believes her. They all think she has falsely remembered her childhood and apart from her kids have pretty much abandoned her. Brimming around the edge of Dawn’s difficulties are those of her children. Josh is secretly in love with his best friend and struggling to come to terms with his sexuality whilst Nicola is glued to her best-friend and escapes her life by partying and drinking.
There is a good story in Celluloid but unfortunately it’s hampered by a handful of things. There is so much going on that each of the story’s strands doesn’t get enough time to properly develop. We can see that Dawn is struggling but her fight feels surface deep and isn’t helped by the unconvincing portrayal of her therapist Dave by James Devlin. Janet Bamford is a capable actress but her character is written quite one-note and you feel like you’re seeing the same scene over and over as she lashes out at her children and deteriorates mentally.
Sadly Devlin’s isn’t the only bad performance in the movie. Josh Croft doesn’t convince at all as American video blogger Ryan. It seems the character may have based on Perez Hilton but Croft’s accent is all over the place. We just didn’t believe his connection with Josh and a sub-plot about Josh escaping home to visit Ryan who is staying in London just didn’t ring true in the slightest for us. Also don’t pay too much attention to Jody Latham’s star-billing as he’s not in the film all that much.
On the plus side Daniel Booth is excellent as Josh. He portrays Josh as a sensitive soul that is trying to be strong for the sake of his mother whilst hiding his sexuality. Olivia Sweeney is also strong as Josh’s sister Nicola. Despite her character falling into a few too many stereotypes of the rebellious teenage girl, Sweeney’s performance elevates the movie and she ends up being the character you are rooting for.
Celluloid unfortunately falls short of its aim. Tackling such dark and sadly common themes needs to be handled with much more depth and expertise. The movie feels like a surface deep attempt rather than a realistic portrayal of a family dealing with a variety of difficult issues. Bamford, Booth and Sweeney hold it together but the storyline lacks originality or believability. We would have liked to concentrate much more on Dawn’s struggles to really understand how she came to be in the situation she’s in at the beginning of the film.