Dating Amber is a sweet coming-of-age film set in an Irish small town in the 1990s, directed by David Freyne (“The Cured”, “Passing”). Living there are two gay high-schoolers, Eddie and Amber, played by Fionn O’Shea (“Handsome Devil”, “Normal People (TV)”), and Lola Petticrew (“A Bump Along the Way”, “Shadows”), who decide to enter a fake relationship to keep the rumors and jeers at bay.
Both main characters and their friendship are the heart of the film. There’s Eddie on one side, deeply closeted – even, to some extent, to himself – who is adamant about enrolling in the Army to “become a man”. Amber, on the other side, 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.
The beginning of their fake relationship is awkward and full of comedic moments, but it soon evolves into a life-changing and life-saving friendship.
Watching those two lonely characters finally find someone they can confide in and be themselves with is heartwarming, not only thanks to the actors’ performances and their incredible chemistry, but also to the warm cinematography and witty dialogues.
The first cracks in their relationship appear when the pair starts exploring their sexuality in gay bars, Eddie not fully ready yet to accept himself. The fear of facing himself and society is too daunting for him, especially after tasting the comfort provided by his fake relationship.
While the first part of the film looks more like a simple comedy, the second part explores darker sides of what seems at first like a fun premise. Eddie’s difficult journey is incredibly well-written and gives a lot of depth to the story, turning it bittersweet but hopeful.
Side characters also deepen the story, from Eddie’s parents, played by Sharon Horgan (“Game Night”, “Catastrophe (TV)”) and Barry Ward (“Jimmy’s Hall”, “The End of the F***ing World (TV)”), whose marriage is falling apart, to Amber’s widowed mother, played by Simone Kirby (“Notes on Blindess”, “Jimmy’s Hall”).
Ultimately “just” a coming-of-age story, David Freyne’s second feature-film manages to reach higher than what could have been a superficial comedy; offering us instead a wonderful gem that strikes every chord and pulls at a few heartstrings.