'Say My Name': Film Review

Huw John
Drolly funny, with a terrific comic performance by Lisa Brenner.
6/14/2019

A man and woman find themselves in trouble after their one-night stand gets interrupted by a robbery in Jay Stern's romantic comedy.

The poster for Jay Stern's romantic comedy features a woman and a man, and the man is definitely looking the worse for wear. She's staring at the camera with her head casually propped on her fist, flashing a sardonic smile. He's looking away with an air of distress, which seems fitting considering that he's sporting a nasty black eye. The photo is indicative of the delightful interpersonal dynamics in Say My Name, which features a lead female character who is smart, funny, sexy and runs rings around her male counterpart. It's not surprising that the film was written by a woman; in this case the talented Deborah Frances-White, a British/Australian comedian and writer who hosts several podcasts including The Guilty Feminist.  

The story, set on a remote island off the coast of southern Wales, begins in a well-appointed hotel room where the two main characters are enjoying vigorous sex. Enjoying it, that is, until the woman (Lisa Brenner) demands that her partner, whom she's clearly just met, "say my name," which turns out to be Mary. Needless to say, for comedy purposes at least, her partner, Statton (Nick Blood) gets it wrong, explaining that he tried to memorize it using mnemonics.  

Their bickering is rudely interrupted by the sudden arrival of two armed men (Mark Bonnar, Celyn Jones) who burst into the room demanding their valuables. Mary is reluctant to give up a necklace to which she has a sentimental attachment because it belonged to her mother, but at least one of the robbers is unsympathetic. "I have a sentimental attachment to money," he replies.

Along the way, one of the crooks gets shot and is forced to wait in the room with the victims while his partner gets help. He and Mary discover a mutual passion for the operettas of Gilbert & Sullivan, and it isn't long before they're spiritedly duetting on a number from The Pirates of Penzance.

The plot, straining at times for a Hitchcockian complexity, is far too tangled to relate at length. Suffice it to say that Mary turns out to have numerous secrets and past identities, including having been a nun and a stripper, sometimes even combining the two. She demonstrates a sharp wit and facility for dealing with all sorts of problematical situations, as the hapless Statton, a piano-tuner by trade, can only look on with wonder.

Some of the dialogue and situations are too silly for their own good. The humor works best in the quieter moments, such as a jailhouse conversation between Mary and Statton, who have been arrested, and a local lawyer (Peter Davison, nearly stealing the film) whose droll legal advice is consistently amusing.

The two leads display terrific chemistry as the one-night stand lovers thrown together into an unlikely scenario involving a search for their stolen property. Blood nicely underplays Statton's befuddlement at being in way over his head, making us identify with his predicament. And Brenner, who also produced, is an absolute delight, demonstrating sharp comic delivery and looking like she's firmly enjoying her character's ability to outwit everyone around her.  

Say My Name manages to include some sweetly touching moments toward the conclusion, as well as a feel-good ending that romantic comedy fans will fully embrace. The pix should also do wonders in terms of tourism for the gorgeous Welsh island where it was filmed. The locations are so scenic, in fact, that it makes you disappointed so much of the story takes place indoors.

Production company: Say My Name Productions
Distributor: Electric Entertainmen
Cast: Lisa Brenner, Nick Blood, Celyn Jones, Mark Bonnar, Tonya Smith, Jamie de Courcey, Robbie Bowman, Peter Davison
Director: Jay Stern
Screenwriter: Deborah Frances-White
Producer: Lisa Brenner
Executive producers: Phillip M. Goldfarb
Director of photography: Alan McIntyre Smith
Production designer: Julian Luxton
Editors: Kyle Gilman, Brian Gonosey
Composer: Joseph LoDuca
Costume designer: Nic Ede
Casting: Laura Windows, Heidi Levitt

Rated R, 84 minutes