Oliver Irving's droll comedy is a taxing reminder that middle-class depression ranks among cinema's least engaging topics.

An apathetic and uninteresting young Brit, played by Robert Pattinson (Cedric Diggory of the Harry Potter series), recruits a Canadian self-help guru to assist him with sorting out his relatively trivial personal issues in “How to Be,” a taxing reminder that middle-class depression ranks among cinema’s least engaging topics. Winner of Slamdance’s special jury honorable mention, this pic represents the other side of the “Control” coin, depicting the mopey adolescent despair of a wannabe rocker who lacks any sign of Ian Curtis’ musical talent. Droll comedy could connect with U.K. youth, but seems doomed to homevid abroad.

Written and directed by Oliver Irving, “How to Be” belongs to that new crop of thinly veiled self-portraiture intended to inspire painful recognition. But Irving’s stylized presentation contradicts any notion of realism. After discovering a book entitled “It’s Not Your Fault,” Pattinson’s character hires the guide’s quack author to help him repair relationships with his disinterested parents, frustrated ex-girlfriend and would-be bandmates. Over time, he realizes such third-party assistance defeats the purpose of self-help. To its credit, the pic avoids fetishizing suicide — that favorite indie-movie fixation — for a more optimistic resolution.

How to Be

Production

A How To Films production. Produced by Justin Kelly. Executive producers, Mirabel Kelly, Bernard Kelly, Iain Sanderson, Tim Hoggard, Sarah Needham, Harry Hyman. Co-producer, Oliver Irving. Directed by Oliver Irving. Screenplay, Irving, with contributions by Joe Hastings, Johnny White, Mike Pearce.

Crew

Camera (color, 16mm), Paul Swann; editor, Reuben Irving; music, Joe Hastings; production designer, Nic Tuft; costume designer, Lucy Harvey. Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, Feb. 1, 2008. (In Slamdance Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 85 MIN.

With

Robert Pattinson, Rebecca Pidgeon, Powell Jones, Jeremy Hardy, Michael Irving, Mike Pearce, Johnny White, Alisa Arnah.

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