Scenes of a Sexual Nature review – hit-and-miss Hampstead romcom

Ewan McGregor, Tom Hardy and Sophie Okonedo are big names doing small roles in this pleasant 2006 portmanteau film

This relatively low-budget British multi-stranded romantic comedy from 2006 is getting a rerelease this week. There’s no obvious reason why it should be trotted out now, especially since it’s such a summery story set in Hampstead Heath on a cloudless day, but it’s a pleasant enough way to pass the time.

The nimbly constructed plot, by TV writer Aschlin Ditta, posits a constellation of couples perambulating about the north London heathland who mostly pass each other by glancingly during their own specific interactions. Some vignettes are daft or feel embarrassingly dated, like the one that features Andrew Lincoln as a married bloke who gets caught by his wife (Holly Aird) leering at a French woman (the marvellously named Eglantine Rembauville) sunbathing nearby. Likewise, the segments featuring Adrian Lester struggling to find somewhere to pee where he won’t get hit on by a gay man lurking in the bushes, and Tom Hardy sexually harassing strangers such as Sophie Okonedo have not aged well.

The more effective parts are less comic, such an intensely awkward blind date being endured by Gina McKee and Hugh Bonneville, or an unexpected reunion after 50 years for one-time teenage lovers Eileen Atkins and Benjamin Whitrow. A scene by the men’s swimming pond between gay couple Ewan McGregor and Douglas Hodge that moves seamlessly from checking out the talent to discussing whether they want kids manages to achieve a Goldilocks balance between sweet, sad and sour. However, the intrusively televisual score and overwritten patness of some of the dialogue feels incredibly clunky – but that just goes to show how much tonalities and expectations for British drama and comedy have changed since the mid noughties.

  • Scenes of a Sexual Nature is available on digital platforms.

Contributor

Leslie Felperin

The GuardianTramp

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