There’s something ever so disconcerting about the sight of Laura Carmichael, prim blonde Lady Edith of “Downton Abbey,” swearing, knocking back a few and having a quick shag in a night club’s restroom in “Burn Burn Burn.”
But, you know, ACTING and all that. You do what the part calls for, and letting her hair down and her near-hysterical freak flag fly is what this quite funny, surprisingly-touching dramedy requires. She’s great fun in the part.
Carmichael and another period piece princess, Chloe Pirrie of the recent Austen adaptation “Emma.” take a rowdy road trip across Britain in this film about two friends fulfilling their late pal Dan’s last wish — that his ashes be scattering in locations of his naming, places he longed to get back to but never did.
Dying at thirty tends to batter a bucket list.
Seph (Carmichael) is in a committed but clingy relationship with James (Joe Dempsie). Alex (Pirrie) has just walked in on her lover Pandora (Eleanor Masuura), who skipped Dan’s wake for her latest infidelity.
Dan (Jack Farthing, terrific) was always the life of the party, as an opening scene notes. He comes off as one of those truth-telling tipplers, and as he got the news that his last months of chemo would be “palliative,” he put some effort into “fixing” his two unhappy friends. He left videos on a flash drive, an offer of an old Volvo, and orders. Spread his ashes, wrestle with some issues, “sort things out” for yourselves and each other.
“Impossible,” they mutter. Dan being Dan and all that. Then Alex discovers Pandora cheating and somehow, advertising copywriting isn’t going to allow her to lose herself in her work to get over these twin blows.
Seph? She hits the wall on “nannying” for her boyfriend’s boss’s upper class twit wife (Sally Phillips) and maybe a little time away from James will clear her head.
“Let’s do it. Let’s scatter Dan!” Better title for the film, BTW. But never mind.
The duo will venture from Yorkshire to Wales, Glastonbury to Scotland, running into hippies, stern “no ashes allowed” tour guides, a confused older hitchhiker (Alison Steadman) and their true selves as Dan — with a different video (and getting progressively sicker) for each locale, forces them to deal with their issues, their secrets and the messy lives he can no longer be a sounding board for fixing.
The scenery’s soggy but grand, the comic bits comic and the touching ones quite affecting. The cast is across-the-board excellent, with the leads wonderfully contrasted — dizzy and lost, bitter and crushed. It’s all just sweet and lovely, not terribly deep, but charming.
I was late getting to Chanya Burton’s tiny jewel of a film. If you’ve missed it, you should too.
MPAA Rating: unrated, with some rowdy sex, drinking, smoking and swearing
Cast: Laura Carmichael, Chloe Pirrie, Jack Farthing, Joe Dempsie, Eleanor Matsuura, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Alison Steadman and Jane Asher
Credits: Directed by Chanya Button, script by Charlie Covell. A Film Movement Plus streaming release.
Running time: 1:46