Director: Hillary Shakespeare
Starring: Scarlett Marshall, Gino Wilson, Emily Jayne, Celiya Köster-Brown, Jennie Hilliard, Sean Micallef, Jack Boal, George Fanzio and Jamal HadjkuraRun time: 1h 25min
Maisie (Marshall) is 16 and never been kissed. Ben (Wilson) is 16 and never been kissed. Soundtrack to Sixteen follows their struggle to rectify this whilst, at the same time, attempting to navigate the trials and tribulations that accompany boozy house parties with the added stress of school exams.
Maisie’s tired of not quite fitting in and being excluded from certain gatherings as well as being anxious to have that first kiss before she turns 17. Stalking her handsome crush (Fanzio) isn’t working out and so she decides to surprise everyone, herself included, by adapting her personality and infiltrating the cool girl’s gang. Longing for attention and desperately seeking snogging, she turns a blind eye to their bitchy behaviour as they take advantage of her good nature, further alienating her from her real friends.
Just as much a misfit as Maisie, Ben does actually have a group of friends, albeit socially inept ones more interested in playing Pokémon than hanging out at house parties. Ben’s eager to achieve decent grades in the upcoming tests and is prone to losing his temper in true moody teenager style. His problems start when he begins to realise that he’s probably not as clever as he thinks he is and his plummeting results would seem to agree.
Of course, their paths collide and what follows is a charming, witty and highly entertaining combination of coming-of-age drama and romantic comedy, made even more watchable by their pitch-perfect performances. Both superbly portray the complex issues faced by young adults as naivety clouds their judgement and compels them to make wrong decisions.
Written by sisters, Hillary and Anna-Elizabeth Shakespeare, their script deftly captures the awkwardness of sexual awakening in hormonal young adults. A game of ‘I have never’ showcases the consequences of bowing to peer pressure and inner monologues are used, often with hilarious results. There are also tender moments of simplicity. A shared bus journey beautifully captures the bumbling nervousness of a simple introduction and watching an older sister play with her much younger sibling is surprisingly moving.
Backing up the two leads is a strong ensemble cast, particularly Emily Jayne, Celiya Köster-Brown and Jennie Hilliard as three self-obsessed, delightfully nasty girls that do their best to bring out their worst. There’s a thumping soundtrack crammed full of teenage angst, whilst the original music by Patrick Savage and Holeg Spies is quirky and melodic.
Soundtrack to Sixteen is an incredibly confident debut feature from the Shakespeare sisters. Intelligent, amusing and delightfully nostalgic with accomplished performances (Marshall and Wilson in particularly have extremely bright futures), it’s well worth watching these teenagers trying to get their kicks.
Soundtrack to Sixteen opens in select cinemas from March 14th 2020. For more information, visit http://www.soundtracktosixteen.com