Juliet (Enya Daly) and Albert are best friends and they do everything together, which would be fine except that Juliet is in her later teenage years and Albert is a small, stuffed bear. Whether it’s grief from her alcoholic mother (Mim) or abuse from her schoolmates, Juliet is constantly a target for ridicule and anger due to her companionship with the stuffed bear that once brought her comfort.
Before we get more into the review, no this is not a comedy, Albert can’t talk and the film is nothing like Ted. I saw Ted before I saw this film, and it actually makes for an interesting double feature where apparently “walking and talking teddy bear” is fine for a grown man to hang out with, but “regular teddy bear” isn’t cool for a young woman to hang out with. Weird double standard, but I digress…
Nic Barker’s Albert & Juliet focuses on the duo and the grief they endure, but it’s not always the clearest on how things got this way. I know that something happened to Juliet’s father that Juliet’s mother resents her for, but I’m not entirely sure what that something is. If it was stated in the film, I missed it somehow.
Additionally, the film is not very interesting visually. It has that matter-of-fact, handheld quality that many films seem to have nowadays when the subject matter is more about presenting a realistic situation than a cinematic escape. And I’m not saying that visual style can’t work as an unobtrusive foundation; it just doesn’t add much either.
This slow-moving tale of maturation amid teenage turmoil is not necessarily unique at the core; tragedy or disruption in one’s younger years often results in an arrested development or at least habit of comfort. In this case, Juliet embraced the comfort of her teddy bear. Where the film really shines is in how it deals with the idea and power of Choice.
By the time Juliet comes to a decision on whether to continue her life with Albert as is or move on without him, it doesn’t come across as someone who is trying to decide whether to conform to those around her. Instead it feels like a moment where Juliet is wrestling with whether she can go it alone, whether she has the strength.
Ultimately, it’s choice of taking her own life in her own capable hands and facing the world, or holding on to her past for the brief comforts it can give. It’s a subtle distinction, but there’s something far more interesting in the maturation and personal growth aspect than the possibility of just conforming. At the same time, since Albert is the focus of all the abuse too, it could be considered an act of love and protection to let go, sparing Albert whatever nastiness the outside world might have waiting for him as long as he and Juliet are together.
In the end, there’s more here than just the surface, and thankfully so. While I may have wanted a bit more information and back story, as an exploration of a moment of time in Juliet’s life, it still works due to the universal nature of maturation.
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