In Albatross, director Niall MacCormick's feature debut, Emelia (Jessica Brown Findlay) is a familiar type in a familiar film: 17 years old and smarter, sexier, and spring-loaded with better comebacks than everyone else in her provincial English town, she whirls into the dust-caked lives of Oxford hopeful Beth (Like Crazy's Felicity Jones) and her family like a slutty Tasmanian devil. After taking a job cleaning rooms at the inn run by Beth's mother, Joa (Julia Ormond, playing an actress embalmed by bitterness), and father, Jonathan (Sebastian Koch, playing a writer burdened by early success), Emelia gives bitchy master classes in how to live. Pretty soon, everyone, including Beth's adorably awkward little sister, wants to be like her—an aspect of first-timer Tamzin Rafn's script that gets unmanageably creepy when Jonathan and Emelia, who claims a relation to Arthur Conan Doyle, begin an affair. At that point, Albatross shifts from indie fairy tale to farce, only to accept its fate as a coming-of-age melodrama. By the time a disillusioned, grimly deflowered Beth leaves for school wearing her ex-friend's "I Put Out" T-shirt, tonal whiplash has eaten up the pleasures of this otherwise well-cast, evocatively shot small-town trifle.
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