Masters of Love review – awkward sex and terrible hangovers

There’s energy, empathy and fun in this smart micro-budget movie from writer-director Matt Roberts, making his feature debut. It’s a freewheeling relationship comedy about an ensemble of twentysomethings in pre-Covid London, enduring quarter-life crises and terrible hangovers.

Niall (Ciarán Dowd) is a standup comic, dating sous chef Lily (Bekka Bowling) who is weirded out by his neediness and in any case attracted to Niall’s flatmate, would-be food vlogger Josh (Owen Roberts) going through a painful breakup, whose sister Emmy (Sarah Ovens) is a photographer dedicated to traditional roll-film cameras and dark-room developing, about to marry her stylish girlfriend, Sam (Eleanor Fanyinka).

The storyline is a bit messy and inconclusive – but then so is life, and it rattles along perfectly watchably. Dowd has an entertainingly embarrassing scene, when Niall and a friend have a cocaine epiphany together in the toilet after a gig and try having sex with predictably dire results. Poor Josh curates a colossal and intricate picnic for a Tinder date one sunny afternoon, complete with wine, and her (understandable) reaction of polite dismay creates a nightmare of discomfort and self-reproach.

But it isn’t all generic relationship-comedy stuff. Roberts creates an interesting and bold tonal shift at one stage when Josh, jealously obsessed with his now ex-girlfriend’s love life, turns into a stalker and does something that would not happen in a Richard Curtis screenplay. That is a genuinely startling scene.

Sometimes the humour and the action are a bit broad, and I’d have liked to see more from Beattie Edmondson – but the film is always likable and, incidentally, very shrewd on the awful symbiosis of unhappiness and heavy drinking. I’m looking forward to Roberts’ next film.

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Masters of Love is available on digital platforms.


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