The underemployed art of the short feature is neatly realized in “Loved Up,” a contempo British youth romance that doesn’t overstretch its fragile limits. Captivatingly played by rising thesps Ian Hart and Lena Headey, pic demands festival exposure despite being destined for pubcaster BBC’s Screen Two slot. Audience response at its Edinburgh preem was loud and enthusiastic.
Lena Headey plays Sarah, 18, a waitress at a diner who feels burdened by her alcoholic mother (Linda Bassett) and is ready for some excitement in her life. Latter arrives in the form of Tom (Hart, from “Land and Freedom” and “Backbeat”) , an easygoing 21-year-old who intros her to drugs and marathon sex in the space of a single night. Next day, she moves in with him.
Awed by Tom’s partying scene, and fired from her job, Sarah starts running drugs for Tom’s hard-nosed supplier, Dez (Jason Isaacs), who also has his eye on her charms. Strains start to appear in the couple’s relationship when Tom makes it clear he feels no responsibilities toward her, and Sarah is forced to choose between family and friends when her mom attempts suicide.
Though the recipe is here for a grungy drama of wasted youth, the film plays surprisingly easily, thanks to upbeat playing by the leads, well-drawn supports and young director Peter Cattaneo’s consistently light handling of Ol Parker’s compact script. Emotional focus stays tightly on the duo’s love story and, despite the vast quantities of pills popped, the pic never gets sidetracked into preaching about drugs.
The photogenic Headey makes a major impression here in the difficult role of the basically wise but love-struck teen, and the more experienced Hart gives her just the right amount of space in which to move. Other characters, from Isaacs’ sympathetic but tough pusher to Milly Gregory as Headey’s younger sis, meld easily.
Ivan Strasburg’s generally bright photography and David Gamble’s smooth editing are further pluses. Though the pic packs no great emotional wallop, it never pretends to, either.