Teenager Maisy Tennison (Scarlett Marshall) longs to be friends with the popular girls at school but is routinely ignored as they don’t consider her to be cool enough. Taunted over her lack of experience with boys, Maisy tries to ingratiate herself with the group and gets invited to a house party by them. After being humiliated by her new friends, Maisy meets nerdy Ben (Gino Wilson), who attends a nearby school and is struggling to keep his grades up. The two quickly become friends but wonder if their relationship may turn into more than that.
Soundtrack to Sixteen is an independent film from Anna-Elizabeth and Hillary Shakespeare. Set in the noughties, it’s an exploration of what it’s like to be a teenager on the verge of adulthood. Maisy longs to be popular and have her first kiss, while Ben thinks he’s better than his peers only to discover that simply isn’t the case when his grades start to plummet. When the two characters first meet, they are both as awkward as each other and their spark isn’t immediately obvious.
Both characters are relatable for the audience this film is aimed at. Maisy is essentially bullied by the popular crowd but she turns a blind eye because she’s desperate to be part of the in-crowd. She even dumps her existing friends for them when she mistakes their kindness towards her as friendship, when actually they just wanted to get a lift to a party. It’s clear that Maisy is aware of what’s going on and when she finally confronts the situation, it’s actually a little heartbreaking.
For Ben, he’s content being one of the lads at school and he thinks he can coast along with minimum effort. More interested in fronting a band than he is doing well academically, his world changes when he meets Maisy. She’s the polar opposite of him but he’s attracted to her, and the film adds in some nice little scenes when he’s jealous because she fancies a boy that doesn’t even notice she exists.
The film suffers a little from having too many characters. Not all of them are rounded enough for you to invest in. It’s also fair to say that some of the acting is a little rough around the edges but that doesn’t detract from what the film-makers are trying to do here. Gino Wilson and Scarlett Marshall are engaging to watch and they have an easy chemistry that holds your interest.
Soundtrack to Sixteen is by no means a perfect film but its heart is firmly in the right place. It’s a sweet coming-of-age story that will resonate with a teenage audience, and indeed any of us that had an awkward period in our teens. The Shakespeare Sisters have crafted an enjoyable film that’s got some light comedic moments and a nice message about being true to yourself. Soundtrack to Sixteen shows a lot of promise and it’s a little gem you should check out.
Cast: Scarlett Marshall, Gino Wilson, Emily Williams, Jamal Hajkura, Isabel Fidderman Director: Hillary Shakespeare Writers: Anna-Elizabeth Shakespeare, Hillary Shakespeare Certificate: 15 Duration: 85 mins Released by: Fiction Films Release date: 27th April 2020