Don’t you just love that there are still new movies coming out even though (the majority of) cinemas are still closed? Don’t you just love it when those movies are actually decent? (Disapproving side eye to you, The Lovebirds.)
Dating Amber is an Amazon Original Movie that was released whilst England was still in full lock down, and it is living proof that Netflix definitely do not have the monopoly on good, straight to digital films. At it’s heart, Dating Amber is a coming-of-age story about two closeted LGBT teens living in Ireland in the mid-nineties who decided to band together to become one another’s beards. As it is set in a much stricter Ireland than the one we see in 2020, it is also a little bit of a lesson in LGBTQ history, and a really cute, fun, yet serious story of what life would have been like back then for kids who were too afraid to come out.
The best way to summarise Dating Amber is that it’s a gay version of Sex Education with a covertly sinister undertone. Count me in. It’s a great idea for a movie, and only enhances the brilliant catalogue of Irish movies I’ve been privy to this year.
The LGBTQ community don’t often get high profile teen coming-of-age movies like this one, so it’s really refreshing to see that Amazon picked it up. Walking into your first gay bar can be an overwhelming experience, and they nailed that pretty well in their Dublin-based sequences. Entering a safe, queer space for the first time as a young gay person is unlike any other feeling, and it’s an entirely different experience to us than it is to our heterosexual counterparts. However, the way this movie frames that idea is excellent, and I’d assume that the straight audiences watching would kind of understand that idea more were they to watch this.
There’s no other way to put this: Dating Amber really surprised me at times. Great cinematography is paired with an unexpectedly brilliant score, with each piece of music being tone-enhancing and perfectly placed.
On top of the technical achievement, there are instances of great casting all round, but having Sharon Horgan as a secondary character is the master stroke here. She’s brilliant at drama and comedy, and it was great to see her play a small yet pivotal role in this.
Although this didn’t exactly blow me away, it was much better than I imagined it would be. It has a well laid out story, especially with the way it tackles the topics of suicide, homophobia, and divorce, while keeping it light-hearted enough for you not to feel depressed afterwards. This is a dramedy in the truest sense of the word.
The negative side for me was the handling of Amber’s story line. Despite the lesbian subplot getting quite a bit of screen time, the gay male side of the story seems to be the more favoured line of storytelling in LGBTQ cinema and this is no different. What was nice however was the fact that there’s not a single strand of ‘Kill Your Gays’ in this movie, which is – sadly – a refreshing change.
All in all, not the best, not the worst, but definitely watchable with some sparks of greatness.
Dating Amber is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video in the UK.
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