Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Before British and Irish films got stuck in a “Gor blimey, guvnor” Guy Ritchie infested gangland rut, many of the best of them (Brassed Off, Four Weddings And A Funeral, Gregory’s Girl) had a whimsical charm. This is the spirit in which Giles Borg’s debut feature has been made.

Ian Bonar is Stevie, a wannabe musician whose look is a hybrid of Jarvis Cocker and early Elvis Costello. Working with his drummer pal Neil (Matthew Baynton) in a call centre, they dream of breaking into the indie music scene. To do this they require additional band members. Step forward the driven (and drinking) guitarist Billy (Kieran Bew) and slightly scatty bassist Emily (Lyndsey Marshal), who has a sideline in making sculpture from hair.

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Split into segments, each bearing a "track" title, the plot is slight - think possible romance, wistful dreams of success. However, the nicely observed camerawork, wry scripting and avoidance of the usual up-and-coming band clichés make it more than the sum of its parts. Unusually for a film about music, Borg shies away from wallowing within the tracks themselves. In fact, there is something quite refreshing about how deeply average the band sounds.

Like last year’s Once, only with more finely observed humour and less fragile melancholy, 1234 taps into a sort of "unplugged Britishness" and Borg, who also wrote the script, makes his characters count. Neil is an everyman drummer of the type we’ve all met at some point, continually tapping, always emphasising the upbeat, while Emily carries the artsy vibe which glows in the hearts of many graduates before experience snuffs it out. Stevie, too, is rendered complex by a clever mix of comedy and earnestness.

The young cast has a natural air that complements the unforced scripting, which brims with an enviable amount of casual humour. Marshal deserves special mention for her portrayal of Emily ("She’s not mental, she’s just arty"), never letting her slip into caricature. Behind the camera, Borg’s combination of observational long shots and intimate close-ups – in particular, a beautifully captured scene on a London roof - gives a feeling of immediacy.

While a little more dramatic weight would not have gone amiss, the lightness of Borg’s debut allows its subtle charms to shine through. Like so many new British voices in film this year, his is well worth listening to.

Reviewed on: 09 Oct 2008
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Wry comedy drama about an indie musician's dreams of success and romance.

Director: Giles Borg

Writer: Giles Borg

Starring: Ian Bonar, Lyndsey Marshal, Kieran Bew, Mathew Baynton

Year: 2008

Runtime: 76 minutes

Country: UK

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