The Festival review: Relentlessly crude but good-natured British comedy

The main insight provided here is that festival-going is a mixture of heaven and hell

Geoffrey Macnab
Wednesday 15 August 2018 12:15
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The Festival - Trailer

Dir Iain Morris, 98 mins, starring: Joe Thomas, Hammed Animashaun, Hugh Coles, Jemaine Clement, Emma Rigby, Hannah Tointon, Claudia O’Doherty

This relentlessly crude but good-natured British comedy from the creators of The In-Betweeners begins with a joke about ejaculation and works downhill from there. Bodily fluids are to the fore. There is bestiality with a goat.

One of the characters has a nipple ripped off. Another mislays a false leg. We encounter druids, tattooists, Elephant Man-like DJs and highly sexed, drug-taking female smurfs. Two of the leading characters compete to see who can eat the hottest curry.

The adolescent smuttiness becomes a little wearing after just about the first five minutes but the film benefits from the very likeable performances of its leads, Joe Thomas and Hammed Animashaun. They play Nick and Shane, best friends from university who’ve recently graduated.

Nick has had a breakdown following a painfully public split from his girlfriend, the spindly Caitlin (Hannah Tointon). In the hope of getting over the emotional trauma of it all, he joins Shane in a trip to a big, Glastonbury-like music festival.

As in The In-Betweeners, much of the humour hinges on the naiveté and ineptitude of the two leads. They’re always the butt of the joke. Nick, in particular, is made to suffer. He spends much of the film face down in the mud or being urinated on or being chased near naked around the fields by irate car owners, or hiding in the tent as his former girlfriend has sex with a one-legged Lothario.

Joe Thomas is an engaging comic actor who knows just how to combine self-righteous smugness and vulnerability. Animashaun has a nice line in genially bewildered understatement. They’re joined for much of the film by Claudia O’Doherty’s Amy, a clingy New Age type who attends festivals on her own, hoping to make new friends in the queues for the toilets and to expose them to her elderly relatives’ revolting organic food recipes.

Some of the plotting seems very random. The filmmakers were shooting at real-life festivals and there is the sense that, like their two leads, they are simply winging it, making their story up as they go along, looking for somewhere to pitch their tent.

In spite of the sniggering, worm’s eye view of the world, the film has a reassuringly old-fashioned feel. It is yet another of those deliberately parochial stories about lovable losers who spread chaos wherever they go. There is a very British irony and eccentricity here which you don’t find in similarly gross-out US comedies from, say, the Farrell brothers.

“Strong sex references, crude humour, sex, drug misuse, very strong language,” is how the BBFC sums up the ingredients in the film – and that just about covers it. The main insight provided here is that festival-going is a mixture of heaven and hell. You can be deliriously happy and wretchedly miserable in the same muddy field. It all depends on the stimulants, the music, the company, and, of course how the weather holds up.

The Festival hits UK cinemas 17 August.

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