It’s mid-90s Ireland and the big questions are being asked – Blur or Oasis? However, for closeted queer school students, Eddie and Amber, the most important question they’re asking is how they can make it through school without anyone discovering that they’re gay? In a desperate bid to fit in the pair decide to begin a fake romance hoping to convince their fellow students and families, and maybe even themselves that they’ve nothing to hide.
Dating Amber boasts a rare combination of a gay and a lesbian story simultaneously sharing the screen. Whilst slightly more focused on Eddie and his struggles with his sexuality, writer and director David Freyne gives both his and Amber’s storylines adequate attention and never neglects one over the other. It’s quite lovely to see these characters coming to terms with their differing sexual orientations together. This narrative decision allows them to support each other offering a refreshing change from the loneliness that is often depicted on screen and is the case in real life for many closeted teenagers. However, Freyne also captures the harsh realities of coming out in small town settings very well, and although it’s a scenario thats been seen on screen before he effectively delivers both emotional and comedic beats to accompany it.
Arguably the strongest element to the film though is its fantastic leading performers. Eddie is played by Fionn O’Shea (Handsome Devil) and Amber is played by Lola Petticrew (A Bump Along the Way). Both performers are excellent, ensuring lots of laughs thanks to their natural chemistry and delivering on the deeper, more dramatic demands of the screenplay. Their performances, as well as the writing, provides good representation for gay and lesbian Irish teenagers who won’t have seen themselves on screen as much as they deserve to. The supporting cast do well in bringing to life the wealth of amusing characters that inhabit Eddie and Amber’s world as well, often responsible for a lot of the film’s comedy, which whilst is hit and miss is definitely more of the former.
It’s a glimpse back into a recent period of Irish history and the struggles that faced LGBTQIA+ teenagers then. Many of these struggles still exist today and Dating Amber succeeds in remaining relevant for this community in the present too. Thanks to the charismatic performances of its leading stars, the playful presentation of many of the film’s secondary characters and its light hearted comedy Dating Amber becomes a charming and heartfelt gay story that it would be hard not to get on with.
Written by Hamish Calvert
STAR RATING –★★★
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