Movie Review: The Festival

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The National Scot

Written By: Mark Armstrong

Distributor: Film4
Production Company: Fudge Park Productions
Director: Iain Morris
Producer: Claire Jones
Scriptwriters: Keith Akushie and Joe Parham
Main Cast: Joe Thomas, Hammed Animashaun, Claudia O’Doherty, Emma Rigby, Jemaine Clement, Noel Fielding and Nick Frost
Released: August 14 2018
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Certificate: 15

Produced by the creators of The Inbetweeners, The Festival carries on the wild, abrasive and darkly comical nature of that programme into this movie, which takes an all-too-real look at the experience of festival-goers, from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.

We’re introduced to Nick (Joe Thomas, himself a star from Inbetweeners) and his girlfriend Caitlin (Hannah Tointon). And, by introduced, I mean that the first proper scene begins with them having full-on sex, which sets the tone for the movie. Both are university students about to graduate, but prior to the ceremony, Caitlin drops the bombshell that she might leave him in a few months because, well, that’s what happens with university couples (which is sadly true more often than not). An argument leads her to dump him there and then, and despite a desperate plea during the ceremony itself which only makes Nick a target of further embarrassment, her decision is final.

Nick locks himself in his room for days on end, only interrupted by his friend Shane (Hammed Animashaun) who reminds him that they have tickets to a major music festival. Shane particularly wants to go so that he can see his hero Hammerhead (or, as Nick calls him, a “tw-t” with a helmet). Reluctantly, Nick obliges, and his mood sours further when, en route via the train, they meet a needy girl named Amy (Claudia O’Doherty), who talks the legs off them. Shane quickly takes a fondness towards her, but it becomes Nick’s worst nightmare.

And things don’t improve upon their arrival at the big party itself, when they bump into some of their uni friends, one of whom just happens to be Caitlin. The atmosphere is awkward, even when they agree to just be mates. As the festival rolls on, Nick ends up in a number of situations which only cause further problems for him, especially when he tries to find Caitlin’s lost phone as a good-will gesture, only to end up inadvertently becoming a Peeping Tom when Caitlin returns to her tent to get it on with Pirate (Kurt Yaeger), a guy who joins Caitlin’s gang during the festival and quickly becomes a thorn in Nick’s side.

Quickly, he and Shane becomes outcasts, with only Amy willing to give them the time of day. Nick just wants to go home at this point, while Shane wishes to stick around to see Hammerhead, and maybe even meet him if it were possible. Soon, Nick is left to his own devices, and after meeting a girl who appears to be dressed as a Smurf (Emma Rigby), he finally starts having “fun”, which of course only ends up worsening things. As for Shane and Amy, their relationship only becomes stronger, but ultimately all of their fates are still intertwined, leading to a climax where they risk not only missing the remainder of the festival, but having their existing friendships potentially be broken.

There are cameos by Nick Frost (who plays a tattooist) and Noel Fielding (who ends up being the man behind the Hammerhead mask), and there are a lot of amusing one-liners, cringe-worthy situations and gnarly visuals (one of which involves Nick and his unexpected desire to have a painful-looking nipple ring piercing). As is the case for Inbetweeners itself, the humour is dark and low-brow at times, with the cruellest of insults mixed with plenty of filthy double entendres and a whole load of swearing. But, of course, that style worked tremendously for Inbetweeners, and since that is the target audience for this movie, it stands to reason that this is pulled off to great effect here as well. In fact, the producers could have gotten away with simply casting Joe Thomas as his Simon character from the Channel 4 show, and noting that this was a spin-off from the TV programme where he spends some time with an additional gang of friends.

It also brings to life the realities of life at a festival, which will be very familiar (at times painfully so) for those who regularly go to the likes of Leeds Festival (where much of this film had been shot, using real attendees as extras), as well as being an eye-opener for those who have never been and are interested in going in the future. On the one hand, there’s the risk of glorifying the likes of hard drug use and casual sex under the influence, but on the other hand, it is presented in a comical fashion just enough to make one realise that what sounds like a great idea at first may not have positive consequences. As such, it will have one of two outcomes on the audience: it will either put you off ever wanting to attend a festival, or it will have you Googling the next available date that you can head to such an event yourself.

In any case, The Festival is a lot of fun, and a worthy extension of the general vibe and sense of humour provided by The Inbetweeners. The one criticism I would have is that Nick’s character is treated very harshly by those around him, so while his friends may have a point that he often puts himself first, they easily forget how they are only using him when it suits them. Case in point, Caitlin’s character comes across badly for not only dumping him for no real reason at a major moment in Nick’s life, but to then immediately sleep with another guy in a tent right next to that of her ex, and then later agreeing with Nick that they should have a nasty break-up and not even be friends anymore. It’s funny, no doubt, but it’s impossible to like her or have any sympathy for her as a result.

Overall, though, I got a big kick out of The Festival, and the 18-30 crowd will as well. Those who loved The Inbetweeners will find this to be a real treat.

Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good