The Be All and End All, 2010.
Directed by Bruce Webb.
Starring Josh Bolt, Eugene Byrne and Liza Tarbuck.
A teenager suffering from a fatal heart condition has one last wish - to lose his virginity.
The Be All and End All is the first feature film by director Bruce Webb. Webb has said himself that he was “immediately attracted to the script’s exploration of sex and death, while its focus on absent fathers has a particular personal interest.” That may sound a bit grim but believe me when I say that the elements Webb talks of combine together to create a real gem of a film.
The narrative focuses on two teenage best friends, Robbie and Ziggy. When Robbie collapses on the way back from a family holiday, which Ziggy also attends, he later finds out that he has a fatal heart condition and may not have long left of his short life. His final wish? To get laid of course - come on, he is a fifteen year old lad after all!
This is an integral part of the story. Like a true friend Ziggy tries his hardest to help Robbie lose his virginity before the inevitable happens. Crude it may sound, but crude is it not. There are elements of humour in various scenes that are reminiscent of American Pie movies - for example Ziggy nearly gets caught deleting porn off Robbie’s computer and they almost get arrested by the police at a brothel. But this does not set the tone for the whole movie, far from it. The attempts of the two boys to get Robbie some sex merely provide the foundations on which a strong bond is portrayed.
For me personally the relationship between Robbie and Ziggy took me back to when I was a teenager and went on family holidays with my best friend too. But Ziggy has to deal with more issues than I did at that age. You get hit by a left hook of emotion when you realise the trauma facing Robbie, which is followed soon after with a right hook when Ziggy’s home problems rise to the surface.
In the director’s statement in the production notes Bruce Webb says the script originally focused a lot more on the comedy rather than drama but he wanted to take the story on it’s “natural pathos and tone down the comedy.” There is no doubt about it that it is no light hearted journey for the characters involved but the nuggets of comedic moments, and there are plenty of them, bring light relief to the emotional roller coaster this film takes the audience on.
Liza Tarbuck makes an an appearance as the sympathetic nurse, Tina, on Robbie’s ward and she is constantly annoyed by Ziggy’s attempts to get his friend laid whilst she is on duty. There is a morally questionable sequence of events after nurse Tina learns of how Ziggy plans to get Robbie laid before he passes, something which made me feel quite uncomfortable. I had invested my feelings in these characters and did not want to see them depleted because they were actively being encouraged to break the law. Thankfully my faith was restored when the film did not go down that route and judging from the sigh from fellow audience members I was not alone in my relief.
The Be All and End All is a British film which addresses themes with common universal appeal: love, friendship and loss. “Sex isn’t the be all and end all” says Robbie in one scene. He’s right - but it’s just one ingredient of this films cocktail that makes it a worthwhile watch.
Jon Dudley is a freelance film and television journalist and his 17-minute short film Justification was shown at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.
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