England, 2010, 94 min
Oliver Tate is an incredibly astute 15-year-old. Keenly observational and wildly imaginative, he carries a briefcase and muses on the relevance of Nietzsche’s philosophy. His conversation is worldly and he’s quick to assess situations. All he has left to discover are his parents, friends, girls, himself and the world and everything in it. Director Richard Ayoade’s funny and touching first feature is an offbeat comedy that shrewdly adapts Joe Dunthorne’s dryly humorous novel about adolescent growing pains. Like a detective in training, Oliver attempts to decipher his parent’s marital problems. His phlegmatic father (played winningly by cult hero Noah Taylor of Flirting fame) appears blind to the danger represented by his mother’s old flame, a New Age self-help guru sporting a mullet haircut with nary a drop of self-consciousness. Oliver determines to expose his mother’s “nefarious” relationship. Meanwhile, he falls for the seemingly impervious tough girl Jordana Bevan. He makes it his mission to be the best boyfriend in the history of boyfriends but in his enthusiasm sidesteps any sense of selflessness. Indeed, his intuition and empathy prove sorely lacking. Oliver thinks he has it all figured out, but his inklings lead him down paths strange, charmed and heartbreaking. Ayoade (already a respected comedian and actor in England before turning to directing) invites us along with a knowing wink. As clueless as Oliver is, he’s well-intentioned and likeable, and one can’t help but be pulling for him.