Film Review: In Love with Alma Cogan
In a genre flooded by quaint and twinkly little London-based rom-coms packaged to give foreigners a falsely polished portrayal of Britain, it’s refreshing to see a gentle, honest romantic-comedy drama like the independent film In Love with Alma Cogan that Britons can really relate to.
Roger Lloyd Pack gives a wonderful performance as Norman, the stubborn theatre manager whose central dilemma is in letting ghosts of the past lie – in the ‘end-of-the-pier’ variety show of the summer, which, despite sell out, leaves the theatre in dire straits the rest of the year, and in a fleeting encounter with pop star Alma Cogan which has haunted Norman for the rest of his life. Packbalances forlorn world-weariness and assertiveness (particularly with regard to Norman’s core principles, when they are challenged) brilliantly, giving us a thoroughly engaging and entertaining protagonist (with a convincing Norfolk accent, no less). Niamh Cusackis also fantastic as Sandra, Norman’s forbearing assistant, her kindness and gentleness contrasting Norman’s stubbornness yet also bearing some sadness of her own, but the two come together as kindred spirits in more ways than they expected. Gwyneth Strong is a comedic highlight as councilwoman Laura, delivering some brilliant lines and scenes (particularly in one Fifty Shades-esque sequence). Watch out also for a lovely cameo from cinema legend John Hurt, the ‘Master of Ceremonies’ of the endearing Norfolk theatre.
Shooting in the seaside town of Cromer during its more wintery months makes for an interestingly sombre take on a place normally known for being filled with tourists and sunshine. It’s an aspect of seaside towns that tourists don’t normally think about, but the beautiful cinematography shows off the charming North Norfolk town even on its greyer days. It makes for an interesting analogy of Norman’s life as well – the summer of his life has been and gone, and he has been left stranded in the bleak winter, hounded by the shadows of his past and unable to face the future.
The writing is superb; with many great one-liners that will keep you chuckling (Norman declares “I reserve the right to remain sulky and difficult” when offered a proposition) balanced well with drama and subtle romance. The music (by director Tony Britten) is also wonderful, with well-themed songs from the theatre’s band reinforcing plot points whilst also segueing one scene to another very well. The contrasting yet brilliantly conducted orchestral music is also a delight to hear, and reinforces the melancholic tones of the scenes.
In Love with Alma Cogan is a heartfelt revival of the past that offers gentle humour and will touch viewers with its engaging drama, all set in an enchanting part of Britain that will surely have audiences thoroughly entertained. It’s a very different experience to your normal British rom-coms like Four Weddings and a Funeral or Notting Hill, but it is a very down-to-earth, honest experience that comes highly recommended.