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After Cameron (Cameron Macauley) cheats on his girlfriend he begins to think about his life, his relationship and whether or not he’s the nice guy he always thought he was. Craig Austin Reynolds’s comedy Rebecca’s Boyfriend follows a rattled Cameron as he returns to Dublin from London and searches for his true nature.
Rebecca’s Boyfriend feels particularly in step with the current trends in the sort of self-soothing auto-analysis that can be found all over the Internet in vlogs, Medium articles and Twitter threads. Cameron talks to his mother, his friends, his half-brother and their father as if he’s dictating a post for the Am I the Asshole? subreddit. He is self-deprecating to a point, “sorry not sorry” about stepping out on Rebecca.
Even as Cameron reflects, recounts and examines himself to breaking point he continues to engage in the same dickhead behaviour. Cameron drinks enough to blame his actions on the drink but not enough to make him completely unaware of those actions.
He angles for a street fight over a minor provocation, and later at his mate’s house Cameron uses an innocent party game to try to initiate an uninvited threesome, and when that fails a foursome, with his friends. These actions might be part of a shame spiral – that is if Cameron’s shame seemed at all genuine. As his co-worker says at the start of the film: “You know exactly what you’re doing.”
Cameron’s behaviour is clownish. He’s a man who in his self-pitying, self-centred quest for absolution full of posturing and half-hearted atonement. He is the Urban Dictionary definition of a “fuckboy”.
The answer to his question is simple: he is a dickhead. But, for someone like Cameron, there has to be something beyond that. Is it nature or nurture? His father Lorcan (Mark Doherty) might have the answer Cameron is looking for. And so, somewhere along the way, Cameron’s quest for self-discovery and understanding turns to a search for a scapegoat. This might be his only hope to hold on to his former identity as a nice guy.
For Cameron, being seen as a nice guy was important, and equally important was being Rebecca’s nice guy. Cameron and his close friends seem to be defined by their relationship statuses. Longtime friends Alan (Eoghan Quinn) and Jill (Breffni Holahan) have recently coupled up. Meanwhile Leslie (Maeve O’Mahony) is no longer with her boyfriend Larry. “Leslie and Larry, it could never work.”
As the group talk about the ups and downs of life and love with Cameron they keep coming back to Rebecca, how great she is, how great her and Cameron are together, how much everyone misses her and so on. Cameron is at his best, his most celebrated as Rebecca’s boyfriend.
Irish cinema hasn’t had much of an interest in the “mumblecore”-style films of the new millennium. Rebecca’s Boyfriend has decided mumblecore “energy”. The staging and camerawork isn’t flashy, relying on minimal setups and blocking. Generally, we’re watching long unbroken conversations between friends and family members.
Craig Austin Reynolds’s script isn’t full of jokes but the mood of Rebecca’s Boyfriend is ambiently amusing. Not all the way to deadpan, more snoozy observational comedy: raw, witty, but rarely gut busting. The no-frills approach that Reynolds takes wouldn’t seem out of place in those high rises and townhouses of those New York “mumblecore” movies.
Many of Rebecca’s Boyfriend’s interiors would fit in in those films too as stand-ins for cramped and crazy expensive condos. We look out of the passenger side window as Cameron is driven from the airport back to his home. A running commentary from his mother points out every new hotel that’s going up in the city. Later, Cameron and his friends sit on a small patch of green space flanked by the glass exteriors of office blocks.
Some ways into the film Cameron and Leslie visit Cameron’s brother Rory (Jack Gleeson) at his Airbnb. As they walk through the hall to the lift Leslie comments that it’s “so weird to actually be inside one of these buildings”. The interior is upscale but uninspiring. Rory is a big-shot banker home from New York, always wearing a tie and generally talking down to people. Gleeson plays the coked-up shark in a goldfish pond well.
In these rented apartments, first Rory’s and later Lorcan’s, we witness some of the most awkward conversations imaginable. The comedy comes in and out. There’s one point in the later scene where Rory and Cameron confront their father about his past infidelities where Rory lets out this sort of stifled crying-laughter. I felt that same confusion watching these supremely uncomfortable scenes unfold.
Cameron’s destiny is left with him, his attempts at explaining away his own actions through other people are futile. Macauley mostly plays the character as flailing, someone who’s lost a version of themselves that maybe never existed in the first place.
His friends placate him but for Cameron the question remains the same. He can’t seem to get out of his own way, and because of this he is the opposite of what he wants to be. The most complex joke Reynolds writes into Rebecca’s Boyfriend is Cameron – dickhead, and Rebecca’s boyfriend.