How to Be

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

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

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.

Popular on Variety

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

More Film

  • 'QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight'

    Film Review: 'QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight'

    In one of the intermittent revealing moments in “QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight,” a documentary about the films of Quentin Tarantino that’s like a familiar but tasty sundae for Quentin fans, we see Tarantino on the set of “Pulp Fiction,” shooting the iconic dance contest at Jack Rabbit Slim’s. As John Travolta and Uma [...]

  • Zombieland Double Tap

    Why Emma Stone Was Haunted by Fear of Vomiting While Shooting 'Zombieland: Double Tap'

    SPOILER ALERT: The following story contains a slight spoiler for “Zombieland: Double Tap.” The zombie slayers are back! Ten years after Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin first killed dead people walking in “Zombieland,” they’ve reunited for “Zombieland: Double Tap.” “You take stock of your life a little bit,” Stone says of [...]

  • Hereditary

    The Best Horror Films to Stream Right Now

    Good horror movies aren’t always easy to scare up, but with Halloween on the horizon, Variety has compiled a list of some of the best horror films available on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. NETFLIX Apostle Cult horror meets religious hypocrisy in this creepy gothic thriller, which follows prodigal son Thomas Richardson, who returns home [...]

  • Brett Gelman

    'Stranger Things' Star Brett Gelman Joins Michael B. Jordan in 'Without Remorse'

    Brett Gelman, best known for his scene-stealing roles in “Fleabag,” “Stranger Things” and “Love,” has joined Michael B. Jordan in Paramount’s adaptation of Tom Clancy’s “Without Remorse.” Jamie Bell and Jodie Turner-Smith are also on board. Jordan is starring as operations officer John Clark, also known as John Terrence Kelly, a former Navy SEAL who [...]

  • US director Francis Ford Coppola holds

    Francis Ford Coppola Honored With Prestigious Lumiere Prize by Thierry Fremaux, Bong Joon Ho

    Francis Ford Coppola took the stage to claim the Lumière Festival’s lifetime achievement honor, the Lumière Prize, in a stirring celebration that marked the festival’s 10th edition on Friday night in Lyon, France. The four-time Academy Award winner accepted the prize after a series of video tributes, musical performances and testimonials from family, friends and [...]

  • 'Human Capital' Sells to Vertical Entertainment,

    Liev Schreiber, Maya Hawke's 'Human Capital' Sells Rights to DirecTV, Vertical Entertainment (EXCLUSIVE)

    Vertical Entertainment and DirecTV have jointly acquired the North American distribution rights to “Human Capital,” an official selection of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival from director Marc Meyers. The film stars Oscar winner Marisa Tomei, Liev Schreiber, Peter Sarsgaard, and Maya Hawke. The ensemble drama follows numerous interconnected stories surrounding a hit and run, [...]

  • Robert Zemeckis

    Robert Zemeckis in Talks to Direct Live-Action 'Pinocchio' for Disney (EXCLUSIVE)

    Robert Zemeckis is in early talks to direct Disney’s live-action “Pinocchio.” Andrew Miano and Chris Weitz will produce through their company Depth of Field with Weitz penning the script. “Paddington” director Paul King had originally been tapped to direct but had to leave the project for unknown reasons at the beginning of the year. David [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content