Benjamin review – Simon Amstell’s barbed wit shines

The comedian Simon Amstell is best known as the acerbic former host of BBC2’s Never Mind the Buzzcocks and his sitcom Grandma’s House. His semi-autobiographical feature film debut (following his 2017 iPlayer mockumentary Carnage) recasts him as something of a romantic, revealing a soft, quick-beating heart beneath the barbed jokes.

Benjamin (Colin Morgan, who nails Amstell’s signature cackle) is a depressed film-maker with a penchant for men who are “weak and well-lit”. When he meets Noah (Phénix Brossard), a young French musician, he falls head over heels, but pulls away when things get serious, unable to comfortably accept the love he’s being offered, and insecure that others – in love and in work – are only interested in him because of his modest success.

The jokes are brutal and very funny, with Benjamin the butt of most of them. “I heard you wrote a film about me and cast a white guy,” sneers his fashionista ex-boyfriend Paul (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett). “I’m really up for doing something that doesn’t come directly from my own pain,” Benjamin jokes to his producer but Amstell’s generosity in mining his own anxieties about celebrity, intimacy and the blunt desire to be loved is proof that pain can be productive.

Watch a trailer for Benjamin.


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