Kids In Love tells a very specific coming-of-age story. Not a universal one by any stretch, but rather an exploration of what it’s like to be a middle class British young man who’s just reached the end of compulsory education. Options are sprawled in front of Will Poulter’s Jack – an unpaid internship, a gap year, a university course – but none of them particularly interest him.
Enter Alma Jodorowsky as Evelyn, a Frenchwoman living in London who parties at places that Jack can’t even describe. She lives in a big quirky house filled with free-spirited pals, including Cara Delevingne’s Viola (an interesting role for the Suicide Squad alum, with a certain wit and warmth emerging alongside a vast collection of colourful headbands), Evelyn’s loathsome boyfriend Cassius (co-writer Preston Thompson) and the film’s breakthrough comedic force Milo (the other co-writer, and former Skins actor, Sebastian de Souza).
As Jack is drawn into this world, it’s unclear quite what Kids In Love wants to achieve. Although there are laughs peppered throughout, the script deliberately doesn’t mine for gags at every opportunity, resisting the easy route of serving up an English Superbad full of juvenile humour. But nor does the film go dark enough to become a hedonistic drama of a teen gone off the rails. Perhaps that’s the point: the movie isn’t sure of its identity, just like its protagonist.
It’s a nice simile, but it doesn’t always make for an engaging watch. There are some scenes that really work (an exchange by the washing-up basin between Jack and his mum is notably touching, and bothers to go to the effort of beefing up the usually-thankless parent-in-a-teen-film role) and some that don’t (one scene with Cassius could have been show-stoppingly grim, but ends up being glossed over). The film is directorially dull, too, with debut feature director Chris Foggin given little opportunity to shine, what with all the dialogue scenes and party sequences.
But still, this movie zeroes in on an interesting point in a person’s development: when you’re finished being a kid and suddenly get asked what you want to do with your entire life. There are plenty of emotions surrounding this stage of growing up – drifting apart from old buddies, forming new relationships, living with adults that expect you to have a plan – which gives Will Poulter plenty to chew on.
Although he’s now 23-playing-18, Poulter inhabits the role of Jack with ease. You believe him as a young man who doesn’t know how to handle the people and pressures around him. It’s another strong performance from this hugely impressive new-ish talent, even if the script doesn’t always give him something interesting to do. (There’s a fair bit of sitting around and making tea involved.)
Jodorowsky puts in a decent shift as Evelyn, too. By the nature of being the intriguing new woman in Jack’s life, she starts off as an one-dimensional manic pixie dream girl, but from there shades of grey are added along with a backstory and an explanation for her lifestyle choices. Jodorowsky brings charisma and charm to both sides of the character.
Sebastian de Souza was the biggest and best surprise, though, as dressing-gown-sporting layabout Milo. I’ll be happy if de Souza ends up cast as the ‘funny best friend’ in some big comedies off the back of this.
Overall, then, Kids In Love is a mixed bag. The performances are strong across the board, and the concept is a strong one, but the script and the direction leave a fair bit to be desired. There are no cutting insights or attention-grabbing flourishes here, leaving you feeling that what could have been a great film has ended up just alright.
Kids In Love is out in UK cinemas now.