Yeah, well, you’re uglier, movie!
(pause to allow crickets to chirp and…)
You’re Ugly Too seems to be a film about second chances, ‘second opinions’ if you will. However, it lacks a basic structure or a strong enough weight to really leave the impact it so clearly wants to make.
The story revolves around a young girl, Stacey (Laura Kinsella), who is forced to live with her uncle who she barely knows named Will (Aiden Gillan) in a remote caravan park after her mother died. The strongest aspect of the movie is these two characters. They’re not exactly much to speak about on paper: he’s the bad boy with a heart of gold (seriously, when the movie reveals he’s been to prison, I immediately thought ‘Hmm, I wonder if it was for good, or misunderstood, intentions’ and, well, watch the movie), and she’s the sassy, foulmouthed and authoritative young girl. What really works is that the two actors really bring a lot of dimensions out of them, and their chemistry is quite palpable.
Their relationship is so strong, that it’s a pity that nothing else around them really works. The story is paced in a really odd way. Despite clocking in at only 78 minutes, the film really drags in part with nothing to really advance the dynamics of the characters or the plot. Because of this, Stacey feels underdeveloped while Will feels overdeveloped. There’s a moment where he goes to a party leaving Stacey by herself, because the movie really wants to hammer in the fact that he’s irresponsible.
Due to this meandering nature, a lot of the story beats feel very rushed. This is most apparent in the opening car ride scene where the cram a lot in in a short amount of time, and in a later moment where two crucial plot points for the end of the film are crammed into one conversation. To show the real issue's with this structure, there’s this big question mark hung over why Will was in prison, but it’s both telegraphed too early and revealed too late to have the impact the movie wants it to.
The side characters? They suck. No, seriously, they leave no impression. There’s this woman crowbared into the plot as a love interest for Will, even though she’s married, and she carries no weight, and her story gets no room to flesh out at all. There could have been an interesting parallel made with her situation and something revealed later, but they don’t really go there. Her husband has a really interesting first scene, but they don’t really do anything with him, either.
Due to this, the ending falls flat, as this lady and her family play an important role in it. They also ended the movie too late-cut the flashback into the previous scene and it ends on a better note. I get why they ended it where they did, but it felt too anvillicious.
It’s also a very cheap looking production. I guess they were trying to go for that rustic, ‘Once’ charm, but it doesn’t really work for the tone. It’s just very awkwardly shot and has a few editing hiccups, though it can be chalked up to this being the director's first feature.
'You’re Ugly Too' has the ambition, but lacks the scope. It’s led by two excellent performances, and the movie would have worked better if you cut out pretty much all the other subplots (maybe as a half hour short, maybe?). As it stands the story’s too bloated and the structure is weak. It has a few funny moments (like the salmon scene and the doctor joke, which cleverly ties into the themes the movie plays with and is arguably the smartest writing choice), and there’s enough to keep you engaged, but it’s sadly a bum note on what has been a strong moment in Irish film history. Go see it if you want to see Aiden Gillan in a strong performance.
(and I broke my own 500 word rule. I have failed you…)