Coming-of-Age in Ireland
David Freyne’s “Dating Amber” is a coming-of-age film set in an Irish small town in the 1990s. We meet two gay high-schoolers, Eddie (Fionn O’Shea) and Amber )Lola Petticrew) who decide to enter a fake relationship to dispel the rumors and jokes about them. Their friendship is the heart of the film. Eddie is deeply closeted and determined to join in the Army to “become a man”. Amber is much more confident and just waiting for the school year to end so she can escape to London with the money she’s been saving. At the beginning, their fake relationship is awkward and full of comedic moments, but it soon evolves into a life-changing and life-saving friendship.
We watch the two lonely characters finally find someone they can confide in and be themselves. Their performances are wonderful and they shar incredible chemistry. The first cracks in their relationship occur when they starts exploring their sexuality in gay bars, Eddie not fully ready yet to accept himself. He is afraid of facing himself and society is too scary for him, especially after feeling the comfort of the fake relationship with amber. His difficult journey is i well-written and gives depth to the story, turning it bittersweet but hopeful. This could have been a superficial comedy but instead it is an intense film that yanks our heartstrings.
Eddie and Amber are outcasts of their fellow peers. They feel the pressure to fit in with the suffocating heteronormative society so they devise a plan to enter into a fake relationship with one another to avoid suspicion about their sexualities. Both characters are layered, and these two strong forces come together beautifully, making their on-screen friendship completely believable.
The film is also a commentary on society and we see this in newspaper headlines, opinions on divorce, and most notably, a sex education video shown at school that has a heavy focus on keeping religion in sex, as well as an unsurprising emphasis on heterosexuality. Even though this is a comedy, it highlights the harsh reality and guilt many people in the LGBTQ+ community face.
The behavior of their contemporaries comes across as disgusting but it is predictable. The world depicted in the televisual backdrop is obsessed with sex – and not in a good way. We see messages about sinful sodomy, the sanctity of marriage and “helpful”/obscene gestures from a smiling nun. The first half of the film is an amusing, interesting satire on the rural approach to sex and sexuality (in 90’s Ireland). About mid-way through, the focus moves to the surrounding society to how Amber and Eddie will take their lives forward. This is an engaging, very watchable movie about teens growing up and dealing with a hostile society. Sometimes the laughter has to stop.