James and Mike are two love-struck friends who have an audaciously romantic plan up their sleeves: they have whisked their girlfriends off to a chic, romantic beach house, where they intend on “double proposing,” complete with skywriting.
However, they soon discover that their girlfriends have their own agenda for the weekend, which makes the fellows change their plan… and sets off a contagion or misunderstandings, mishaps and misadventures.
Filmmaking duo Richard Naylor and George Fox’s gossamer-light and witty romantic comedy of errors have a clean, contemporary look, beautifully filmed and filled with an aspirational, glossy sense of light.
It takes advantage of the film’s lovely central location, with its evocation of ease, leisure and romance, promising fulfillment and happiness. But then within this stylish fantasy, it places a delightfully loopy roundelay of confusion and misunderstandings that expose the gap between romantic illusion and emotional reality.
Built on a tightly structured script and direction and pacing that keeps the proceedings buoyant and engaging, the story blends self-deprecating British humor with a classic screwball rhythm that’s reminiscent of the classic comedies of the 30s and 40s, which provided a respite of refined escapism during a troubled time. Its dialogue fizzes and pops first with anticipation at the grand romantic gesture being planned, and then with the anxieties uncovered when James and Mike realize their ardor for their girlfriends is not reciprocated. And the excellent cast delivers its repartee with a nicely calibrated balance between the quips and wit and the grounded emotions underneath the comedy, so the comedy never gets carried away.
What works especially well in giving the set of female characters their own agency, POV and agenda in the plot, which gives the proceedings a sense of momentum and movement that can be hard to generate in a short film but is accomplished quite effectively here. Juxtaposing the lads’ rose-colored lens of romance against their girlfriends’ pragmatism offers humorous contrast, and in many ways, the short is a collision of two buddy movies. But as the stakes rise and each set of characters attempt to save face, hold onto their pride and avoid as much unpleasantness as possible, the escalation of events becomes increasingly convoluted, and ironically can only lead to disaster.
“The Beach House” is unabashedly light and entertaining, and manages to stay down-to-earth despite the wealthy connotations of its setting. Polished in look and possessing plenty of charm, the film is the cinematic equivalent of a pleasurable beach read or a bubbly but tart glass of rose, but that’s not to minimize its accomplishment. It is actually quite difficult to achieve such nimbleness, which relies on air-tight writing and a unity of performance throughout the film. But in an increasingly weary world, such breeziness is a moment to take a deep breath and enjoy a vicarious vacation, before having to return to the hustle and bustle of everyday life.