Kai is essentially a bundle of internal confusion and emotions, and he carries a dictionary around to help him find the right words. He expresses feelings in his private writings, and it’s in this final week of school that he begins to express his feelings in ways that help and don’t, which is pretty much the entire plot.
Philophobia is pretty much your standard coming-of-age film dealing with all the themes that come with it. The difference, though, is in its tone. Set in the “proper” English countryside, you’re not going to get the hormone-raging sexual antics of an American Pie. Don’t get me wrong; these teens have sex, but without the salacious comedy associated with it.
“…story is clean and easy to follow with good balance between light and serious moments…”
The story is Kai’s, and the role is played wonderfully by Joshua Glenister. His portrayal of Kai is subtle, like a cold tea kettle. It takes time to warm it up, and boy does it take time, with Philophobia’s two-hour run time. The performances are subtle between the two leads, Kai and Grace, but the subtlety works. They say more about their character and feelings in the acting as opposed to just saying it with dialogue like we see in so many films of this ilk.
In spite of the film’s slow pace, what I liked was how unpredictable it was. Yes, we’re all familiar with coming-of-age stories and nothing new here, but I love that I had no idea where the film was going nor how it would end. The fascinating relationship is between Kai and Kenner. Their relationship is like a chess game, in which one side uses the queen as its dominant weapon, and the other uses the pawns.
Director Guy Davies shows a great deal of skill in Philophobia. His story is clean and easy to follow with a good balance between light and serious moments, and best of all, he lets his actors act.
Philophobia screened at the 2019 San Diego International Film Festival.