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Jitters - um...
on 14 April 2012
A warning, there is at least one big spoiler in what follows.
I get nervous each time I see a teen-drama compared favourably with 'Skins' as the experience almost always turns out to be a disappointment. This one is no exception, despite having characters and plotlines that are familiar (maybe too familiar). In addition to the mention in the Amazon blurb there's a review quote on the DVD sleeve saying that 'Jitters is everything Skins wishes it could be...'. No, it isn't. The incisive dialogue, wit, complex characterisation and sometimes shocking clash of tightly interwoven dark and light themes that have distinguished Skins at its best are almost completely missing here, leaving Jitters as a strangely flat, predictable and generally rather glum affair.
The central character of Gabriel is a quiet, sensitive boy engaged in supporting his somewhat interchangeable closest female friends and irredeemably stupid, boorish best (male) friend in their troubles. At the same time he's privately trying to make sense of the feelings he has for the fellow Icelandic boy he kissed while on a summer school trip to England.
Cute as a button Atli Oskar Fjalarsson is absolutely fine in the part of Gabriel but hampered by a scattergun script, poor structure and unfocussed direction. His love-interest Markus disappears for a long time while the director introduces the peripheral storylines - so a substantial portion of the initial, tentative development of their relationship winds up being conducted by text, leaving Markus as something of a cypher. When Markus finally reappears he almost immediately does something arbitrarily cruel that hurts and alienates Gabriel and which seems at odds with the character we've encountered thus far. Cue sadness and more texting, and time out to progress the other story strands. Eventually the boys begin to reconcile their feelings, though this is dealt with in a comparative rush. Along the way potentially telling interactions between Gabriel and his family end up being stilted and unresolved, partly due to wooden performances from some of the adult actors and partly to vague direction. The closing scene of the film is a case in point, with Gabriel's sympathetic stepfather and domineering, nosey mother completely ignoring what's going on behind them, when glancing round would answer all the questions they've had about Gabriel's secretive behaviour throughout the film - their utter lack of curiosity about his unexpected meal-interrupting visitor is laughable in the circumstances.
In summary, there's nothing really fresh or particularly well-done in Jitters. At least one too many storylines causes muddle and robs the main story of valuable development time. That's a pity, although on second viewing Fjalarsson's appealing performance lifts the production from 2 to 3 stars.