Goodbye Charlie Bright review

There's nothing like a bit of gratuitous nudity to keep the peepers peeled and, while opening with the not un-pretty Paul Nicholls streaking his way across the screen may scream ""gimmick!"", this likeable debut from writer-director Nick Love has much more substance than you might at first expect.

Once it gets past a tired, freeze-frame intro sequence (which looked old when Trainspotting did it), Goodbye Charlie Bright quickly starts sparkling thanks to a blend of believable characters and emotive plotting, making a refreshing change from the usual run-of-the-mill lads-about-town movie shenanigans. Indeed, Charlie Bright is more reminiscent of coming-out comedy Beautiful Thing, not least in the way the council estates are depicted in vivid summer hues rather than as the stone-clad hell favoured by the likes of Ken Loach. Love also wisely keeps the more established members of the cast (Phil Daniels as a psychotic Falklands veteran and David Thewlis as Charlie's dad) in the background, allowing the younger actors to shine through - - especially Roland Manookian as the blockheaded Justin.

Plotwise, the focus is on the crumbling friendship of childhood chums Charlie (Nicholls) and Justin as they realise they're spiralling off in different directions. But Love falters as he tries to give the film deeper relevance by bookending it with anti-war sentiments - rather than highlight Charlie and Justin's lack of ambition and sense of community, they just end up feeling like they've been tagged on for their own sake.

Love also struggles with the dialogue, which often slips into Sarf Lahndan clichés - - given that Love grew up on the estates, that's unforgivable. But, despite occasionally feeling like an EastEnders reunion party, there are enough surprises to keep Charlie Bright gliding towards its satisfying conclusion.

A coming-of-age drama which, despite its faults, has plenty going for it thanks to strong performances from young actors like Paul Nicholls and some smart ideas from writer-director Nick Love. Even an appearance by Dani Behr can't derail it.

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