We’re transported back to the indie era of one-pound pints, sweaty walls, and those coloured framed sunglasses that everyone wore to nightclubs for Giddy Stratospheres, the debut of musician, model, and actress turned filmmaker Laura Jean Marsh. As well as writing and directing the piece, Marsh plays the lead role of Lara; an art-school scenester whose party lifestyle begins to catch up with her. Reeling after a boozy night out with her best pal Daniel (Jamal Franklin), she is called away to a family funeral where she is forced to face up to her mounting problems.
Lara’s story is soundtracked by brilliant tunes from the likes of Franz Ferdinand, The Cribs, and of course The Long Blondes whose seminal track gives the film its title. Whilst the music provides an enjoyable air of nostalgia for that fleeting moment of British culture, the film’s authenticity is stretched thin by a low production value. It’s as if a sticky lost and found box from 2007 has been tipped up, and the contents used to patch together a threadbare narrative in a ready-steady-shoot fashion. A bizarre Shyamalanian twist in the third act feels clumsy and somewhat contrived, a last-ditch effort to bring purpose and substance to a feature that might’ve worked better as a short.
Adding another string to her bow of talents, Marsh directs with knowledge and passion for this particular period. However, her lack of experience makes for an amateurish outcome, and this becomes increasingly evident in the performances. Despite eccentric caricaturist cameos from comedians Richard Herring and Nick Helm, the dialogue delivery from the bulk of the cast feels stilted and unnatural. The best example of this is in a dankly shot club sequence where Lara has a heated conversation with a friend sporting a wacky disconnected mullet that’s less Karen O and more Karen Oh No.
Cheap but not so cheerful, Giddy Stratospheres is a plucky vanity project from Laura Jean Marsh that is full of DIY punk spirit, succeeding in entertaining when leaning into its fantastic indie soundtrack.