A British debut feature from a very promising writer/director.


Kim Spearman and Joshua Glenister 


It has of late been most encouraging to find that there are so many talented new filmmakers around. Guy Davies, the writer and director of Philophobia, is the latest to emerge, this being his first feature. His choice of material is relatively conventional but he brings to it a certainty of touch on more than one level. Philophobia was shot in the Five Valleys around Stroud in Gloucestershire and it combines a fine sense of place with an eye for maintaining an intimate feel to the story despite the film being shot in the 'Scope format. It is a ratio with which Davies seems to be totally at ease.


I call the tale conventional since this is a study of school friends in their last term with the focus on three boys in particular, a familiar enough set-up on screen. The key figure here is Kai (Joshua Glenister). He is the most intelligent of the three and has ambitions to become a writer that are encouraged by his English teacher (Harry Lloyd). We are also privy to Kai's thoughts which reveal to us his desire to get away from this area with its limited opportunities in order to find his own freedom in the wider world. His close pals, Sammy (Charlie Frances) and Megsy (Jack Gouldbourne), have less chance to leave and are likely to stay put whatever their feelings on that score might be. Meanwhile, all three are eager to participate in pranks to mark the end of their last school term extending from stealing forks from the kitchen to a naked midnight run. As for Kai, his other chief concern is his fascination with the girl who lives opposite, Grace (Kim Spearman). Unfortunately for him she has an existing boyfriend, Kenner (Alexander Lincoln), who is possessive and hostile to any rival. Grace herself seems equivocal over whether or not she wants this commitment.


The material may cover little new ground but Davies shows real directorial skills (one critic saw in one of this film's opening scenes an echo of A Short Film about Love and it is easy to believe that Kieslowski's piece is one with which Davies is familiar). Furthermore, when it comes to making these adolescents wholly persuasive the writing carries great conviction and the actors all live up to the confidence placed in them. For such material Philophobia is admittedly unexpectedly long (a little over two hours) but in the first half the unhurried pace is an asset in that it gives time to present us with characters who fully live and breathe. Later on, however, Davies's judgment tends to falter. The episode of the naked night-time dash is far too incidental to justify the time allotted to it, especially since this occurs just when the main dramatic thread (the tensions and outcome of the potential romantic triangle) cries out to be given its head. When that thread does provide the film with its climax, Davies comes up with a very neat touch at the very end, yet this climax doesn't as a whole serve as an effective and natural conclusion to all that has gone before. To that extent one can criticise the screenplay just as one scene featuring a circling camera is so irritatingly self-indulgent that the direction at that point seems utterly misjudged. But, these elements apart, there is so much quality work here that there is no doubt at all but that Philophobia marks out Guy Davies as a filmmaker to watch.


Unexpectedly, I just need to add a footnote relating to the title. The film should not be confused with another 2019 movie which opted for the same title save that it chose to spell out its meaning: Ty Cole's Philophobia or The Fear of Falling in Love.




Cast: Joshua Glenister, Kim Spearman, Jack Gouldbourne, Charlie Frances, Alexander Lincoln, Harry Lloyd, James Faulkner, Kate Isitt, Grace Englert, Elizabeth Healey, Marc Danbury, Windson Liong, Emile Stride, James Graeme.


Dir Guy Davies, Pro Matthew Cook, Toby E. Cook and Guy Davies, Screenplay Guy Davies, from a story by Matthew Brawley, Ph Stefan Yap, Pro Des Elena Isolini, Ed David Freeman and Tim Hawkins, Costumes Verity May Lane, Dialect coach Katherine Hook.


123 mins. UK. 2019. Rel: 30 October 2020. Available in cinemas. Cert. 15.