Fionn O’Shea says sometimes “it’s the scenes that have the most comedy that are the hardest to film.”
By Karen Butler
Fionn O’Shea knew as soon as he read the script for the coming-of-age story “Dating Amber” that the dramedy film was something special.
“It was really just a feeling,” the 23-year-old Dublin native told the Irish Echo in a recent phone interview.
“The first time I read it, I was laughing out loud at moments and crying out loud at moments,” he said. “It’s a queer story that is framed in hope and optimism and I think it’s really important that queer stories are framed with those things. It’s joyous and it’s feel-good. There were so many elements that made me want to be a part of it.”
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Set in 1995 Ireland, “Dating Amber” is about the deep friendship that develops between Eddie (O’Shea) and Amber (Lola Petticrew,) teens who pretend to be dating to conceal the fact they are gay from their old-fashioned families and judgmental classmates.
The film was written and directed by David Freyne, loosely based on Freyne’s experiences growing up gay in Kildare.
O’Shea describes the story as “semi-autobiographical and semi-wish fulfillment,” Freyne says it is the film he would have loved to have seen when he was a young man.
“Dave was so generous as a director and we had so much rehearsal time and Lola and I spent so much time [together] before filming that when we went in on Day 1, we were so prepared and ready and we rehearsed so much that we just felt completely at ease when we stepped on the set,” O’Shea explained.
“It was such a collaborative experience and Dave allowed both Lola and I to bring so much of ourselves to Eddie and Amber and also bring so much of Lola and my friendship to Eddie and Amber. He was so, so generous and a dream to work with.”
Of course, there were challenges along the way since the story covers an enormous range of human emotion, including anxiety, frustration and sadness.
“Interestingly, sometimes the most challenging scenes aren’t even the ones that you expect. Sometimes, it’s the scenes that have the most comedy that are the hardest to film,” O’Shea said.
The movie’s period costumes, hair, makeup and production design went a long way towards helping the cast immerse themselves in this not-so-distant world.
“It really felt like you were taking a step a little bit back in time to the 1990s. Every time we got to a different location, we were like: ‘Oh, my God! This is amazing!’ Down to the most minute details,” he recalled, noting he appreciated how the era also represented a time of social change.
“It’s set in 1995 and that’s only two years after homosexuality was decriminalized and it is set against the backdrop of the divorce referendum in Ireland, so it’s interesting also seeing and thinking about that time and how far we’ve come.”
The movie will be available via video-on-demand and digital platforms in the United States on Nov. 13 as the coronavirus pandemic rages on and much of the country remains divided after a contentious presidential election.
“Everyone across the board who made it really put their hearts and souls into the film, so to have people like it as much as we liked making it is, then, a really lovely thing,” O’Shea said of the rave reviews the movie has been getting.
A rising star known for his roles in “Handsome Devil” and “Normal People,” and who will soon be seen in the films “Cherry” and “Wolf,” O’Shea hopes 2020 audiences will find comfort and inspiration in “Dating Amber.”
“If people can sit down and watch it and feel good for 92 minutes as a bit of respite, that would be great,” he said.
“Dating Amber” also features Sharon Horgan, Barry Ward and Simone Kirby.