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Review: Giddy Stratospheres

To me, the 2000s don’t seem that long ago, but perhaps that is a sign of the times and how strange the passage of it has felt lately.  Yet when you look at 2007, the year that writer-director Laura Jean Marsh’s Giddy Stratospheres takes place, it’s an interesting snapshot in time.  It was the year that the first iPhone was released – what would we do without our smartphones now?  Spider-Man 3 was the top film at the box-office that year when Tobey Maguire was still wearing the skintight suit.  Beyonce’s Irreplaceable was the number one song on the Billboard charts.  But it was also a time that the Indie music scene was really in full swing, and where Giddy Stratospheres’ main characters belong.  

Lara (Laura Jean Marsh, also staring) loves to party.  She doesn’t shy away from a swig of red wine, some ‘breakfast vodka’ or last night’s cold French fries when she wakes up, woozy from the previous night’s adventure.  Her best friend Daniel (Jamal Franklin) is her partner in crime, and on this particular day, they’re headed by train to her grandmother’s funeral after a particularly overindulgent night together at a North London pub where their favourite band was playing.  However, a still inebriated Lara is pushed by Daniel to remember the events of the night before, as foggy as they may be.  It’s clear something happened that will affect their friendship, and as they try to recount the memories, a dark cloud looms over them both.  

Giddy Stratospheres does benefit from its structure, which at first seems unnecessary but then succeeds when it shows its hand.  However, it doesn’t benefit from much else.  As a director, Marsh does try to work the micro-budget to her advantage, shooting a club ‘full’ of people with close-ups and fuzzy visuals to imitate a capacity crowd.  Though the fact the band on-screen isn’t even performing the song playing on the soundtrack is a little confounding.  By film’s end there are some well-composed shots that show promise, yet it’s hard to feel that Giddy Stratospheres is much more than a lot of filler with only snippets of substance.  

Running at only 67 minutes, Giddy Stratospheres has multiple lengthy stretches of undeveloped supporting characters talking about nothing much of consequence.  In a longer film, they could have been used to create more atmosphere and perhaps given more depth, but they do nothing to propel the plot or characters forward and with such a short run time we need more focus on Lara and Daniel.  I love films that make the most of their minutes.  A well-edited shorter film can often be just as effective, if not more so, than a lengthy two-hour saga.  However, in this instance, Giddy Stratospheres needed more time to really be the celebration of friendship it wants to be, to bring more emotional impact to its climax. 

 Giddy Stratospheres is a nostalgic film, full of great tunes from the likes of Franz Ferdinand, The Futureheads, The Walkmen, Le Tigre, The Rapture, Art Brut, and The Cribs, among others.  Those who can remember the time these bands were hot and emerging will enjoy the soundtrack of their younger years.  But that’s truly the most substantial and impressive thing about this film.  The lack of development and some mediocre acting turns (though Franklin is largely delightful) don’t help give life to this story, a story that does have potential.  However, like Lara’s memories, disappearing with her substance use and abuse, Giddy Stratospheres will also disappear from yours.  

Giddy Stratospheres is currently available on digital platforms.

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