★★★★ - STUFF
- Jo Brand's best-selling book now a fabulous movie -
The More You Ignore Me is writer and comedian Jo Brand's own adaptation of her own, hugely popular 2009 novel.
Brand worked as a psychiatric nurse in the years before her comedy career took off, and she brings an unflinching and utterly honest eye to this deft and entertaining portrait of a family being simultaneously torn apart and reinvented by one woman's mental breakdown.
While Mum Gina is stalking the new TV weather presenter, teenage daughter Alice is having her life turned upside down by hearing The Smiths for the first time. As Alice frets that her own perfectly normal obsession with Morrissey and co. is just a precursor to developing mum's full-blown schizophrenia, Gina spins ever further out of the family's orbit.
Meanwhile, resigned and accepting Dad Keith (Mark Addy) is moving on with what might be a new relationship of his own, but with the doctor who is supposedly looking after what remains of Gina's mental health.
If any of that sounds grim or tiresome, banish the thought. The More You Ignore Me is a warm, often hilarious and perfectly well-drawn portrait of a family story far-too-unlikely to be entirely fictional.
Brand knows and adores these people, and she captures them perfectly. Occasionally debut feature director Keith English (TV's Bus Life) doesn't know quite what to do with such excoriating wit, and retreats a little cosily to rom-com staples, but mostly he keeps this film as clear-eyed and saccharine-free as it needs to be.
The More You Ignore Me (the title is from a Morrissey song, The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get. Read into that what you will) is an absolute peach of a film. The script is a wonder, the soundtrack is haphazard, but littered with gems, and the cast – Sheridan Smith, Ella Hunt and Mark Addy are Gina, Alice and Keith – are all perfectly chosen.
Smith and Addy have a lot of quite brilliant Brit TV on their CVs, while Ella Hunt (Anna and the Apocalypse) is surely only one more good role away from breaking into stardom.
If you're looking for a decent rom-com, then The More You Ignore Me ticks all the boxes. But, under the laughter, there is also a seriously good and well-informed unpacking of what mental illness can do to a family, both good and bad. Go see it.
- Graeme Tuckett, STUFF
The More You Ignore Me is now playing at Light House Petone & Pauatahanui!