Alright Now

Image of Cobie Smulders from Alright Now (Songbird)

Alright Now ("Songbird") [2018] is currently touring film festivals nationally. Directed by Jamie Adams, his unique creative process permits fully improvised dialogue and allows for some genuinely excellent chemistry. Even more impressively, the feature was shot over five days using a majority of locations in Falmouth, Cornwall taking advantage of local resources and talent to create the finished film. 

How I Met Falmouth: Hollywood star Cobie Smulders plays 90s Brit icon Joanne Sky as she drunkenly applies to university when her band falls apart. And in some miracle, her personal statement was so overwhelming it was accepted overnight (I seem to remember mine taking months but sure). Other cast members include Noel Clarke and Jessica Hynes who equally bring charisma to their roles making for some great moments when the cast bounce off each other with ease. It should be noted that the cast look like they’re having just as much fun on screen as they are off. 

Improvisation Nation: As stated earlier, the dialogue is all completely improvised. At many points, this plays for the benefit of the film creating some uniquely ‘real’ moments and acting as a major selling point. However, since there is no script, the narrative is lacking momentum throughout as there is no motivation to reach the final act. And there are some scenes that feel so overdrawn as the actors are literally doing whatever they feel making for some cringy sequences. With all that aside, the improvisation is a nice touch with actors playing with their personalized inputs. 

Sunny Cornwall: The backdrop of a January in Falmouth is a gorgeous vista for the film allowing Cornwall to get some nationwide respect. Adams plays against genre conventions by featuring a small seaside town and a female protagonist rather than a ‘ladish’ male – one of the main reasons Smulders was tempted by the film. The setting of the university in itself was also interesting and enjoyable for locals to spot recognizable locations and also let Falmouth School of Film and Television students assist on set. 

Robin Sparkles:  Whilst there is lots to commend Alright Now ("Songbird") for, my biggest gripe would be the lack of narrative motivation. The plot feels like it is aimlessly meandering from scene to scene with no outcome being satisfying to watch. Smulders, whilst great as Joanne, is sometimes immensely grotesque (which is part of her narcissistic character) but makes it difficult to empathize with her actions. Only the parts of the improv successfully land whilst other times it feels uncomfortable and unwelcome making for the film to feel overdrawn. 

Alright Now toys genre conventions and improvised dialogue from a charismatic cast but lacks any kind of narrative progression for the audience to feel empathetic.

Watch Alright Now on Amazon