1234 (Director: Giles Borg): Nerdy Stevie has been playing music with his pal Neil for years, but when they convince ambitious guitarist Billy and his pretty bassist friend Emily to form a band, they might just be onto something. Or maybe not. This affectionate portrait of a struggling indie band is mostly played for laughs with a bit of romance thrown in.
The division of the film into chapters named after songs, like tracks on a mixtape, is a bit precious, but it occasionally pays dividends, like when the filmmakers are able to license the track and use it in the scene. So we get a great Stooges riff (“I Wanna Be Your Dog”) followed by a nice Belle and Sebastian song (“My Wandering Days Are Over”). But it does create a bit of expectation that we’re going to hear each named track, and that became a small distraction for me.
The story arc and some of the characters are nothing new. Despite Stevie’s crush on Emily, she has a predictably horrible boyfriend. And Billy’s ambition is fuelled by the anger of a man long jobless, although it never really threatens to become anything other than annoying. The band starts out as fun, and when it becomes too serious, cracks emerge. It’s an old story. What lifts it are winning performances, especially by Ian Bonar as the likeable Stevie and Lyndsey Marshal as Emily. There is a lovely chemistry between them, and if this sweet and slight film works better as a romance than as a rock epic, I don’t think anyone should mind. Particularly if you’re a Belle and Sebastian fan.
p.s. The best thing about this film might be my discovery of Comet Gain, a remarkable indie band formed in 1993 and featured in the trailer (from the 0:50 mark) and in a brief performance scene in the film.