Ashby – Tony McNamara, 2015, 15
Netflix rates it: 4.5/5
I rate it: 4/5
Tony McNamara’s Ashby follows Ed (Nat Wolff), an intelligent new kid at school, as he settles into his new life and befriends his older neighbour, Ashby (Mickey Rourke). After initially approaching him as a possible subject for an English essay on older people, Ashby reveals himself to be a much more interesting character than initially expected, and is able to give Ed an insight into a completely different side of life. Along the way, Ed manages to find a friend his own age in Eloise (Emma Roberts), a smart pupil with an interest in the neurobiology of American football players (made even more interesting to Ed as playing American football is shown to be a dream of his from the very beginning of the film)
Both Wolff and Roberts are charismatic young actors, and here manage to capture the uncertainty and ups-and-downs of high school life perfectly. Both of their characters appear to be similar, which is completely different from Ed’s relationship with Ashby as the two have entirely contrasting personalities. Two such different friendships make the film far more interesting to watch, as there is a different dynamic between the main characters. The way Ed and Ashby manage to have a positive effect on each other’s lives despite their differences is a heart-warming element of the storyline, with Ashby taking on a kind of father-like role and Ed reminding him how great life can be. Sarah Silverman is a great and amusing addition to the cast as Ed’s mother June, who is trying desperately hard to fit in in her new neighbourhood whilst showing immense pride in her son.
Although Ashby has garnered some mixed critical reviews, McNamara manages to maintain a lighthearted and entertaining tone from beginning to end. One particularly nice thing about the film is that, although it’s based a high-school, it isn’t exactly a typical “high-school” film; the teenage characters have an awareness of people and events outside of their school, and their whole worlds don’t revolve just around the events of the school day. It’s true, there are a few clichés scattered throughout the film but if anything, this just makes it more accessible, and they don’t detract from the generally entertaining nature of Ashby.
Overall, if you’re looking to watch a film that combines multiple genres in one entertaining and easy-to-watch final product, Ashby should be added to your to-watch list. With elements of romance, sport, and a hint of action, it really is a film that can be enjoyed by a wide audience. The strong casting only serves to add an extra incentive to watch. There’s a reason it has such a high rating on Netflix!