It's not very often as a North Wales based film critic that a new picture comes along that has me pointing out local haunts like Leo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. It is, for the most part, nigh-on unimaginable that a film would release that's actually set little more than a stone's throw from my home – the Denbighshire area mostly clings to 1973's big screen Holiday on the Buses and Carol Vorderman being from Prestatyn as its claim to fame. But now, with the release of Me, Myself and Di, directed by Chris Green and written by Samantha Lloyd, North Wales – and, more specifically, Rhyl – is set to be put back on the cinematic map.
Green's film centres around socially awkward Northerner Janet Brown (Katy Clayton). When she's not throwing shapes enthusiastically at a local Bangra class, Janet is usually dossing about with lapdancer BFF and cousin Diana (Lucy Pinder). While Janet suffers from a crippling lack of self-confidence, Diana is her total opposite, a loud-mouthed spotlight stealer with a penchant for raining on parades. When Janet wins a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Craven's Holiday Camp (actually Lyons Robin Hood for any locals out there) in “sunny Rhyl” however, she sees a chance to change her luck and maybe even find love.
While reluctant at first, “Who wants to go to scummy Rhyl anyway?” Pinder's character snarls, a culture shock sees Diana agreeing to join Janet. Before they go however, in true Sandy from Grease style, Diana takes on Frenchie's role, remodelling Janet's entire look and character before reintroducing her to the world as Janette de Brun, a would-be vixen ready to throw off her insecurities and seize the day. When they arrive at Craven's and Janet meets the milquetoast Craven heir Jon (a stuttery, sweetly characterised Tyger Drew-Honey), the pair embark on a whirlwind romance as the newly minted Miss de Brun tries to keep up her act and Craven Jr. desperately tries to see the real Janet. If you've ever watched a romantic comedy in your life, or a coming of age film, then you'll know where Me, Myself and Di is headed from the get-go, but the journey is a sweetly observed one nonetheless.
With a tagline punnily proclaiming how “Love is about to get Rhyl”, Green's Bridget Jones riffing, Muriel's Wedding reminiscent film affectionately pays tribute to a town that has seen better and worse days by telling a story that is a testament to owning your heritage and who you are. Like the town at the film's centre, Me, Myself and Di is rough and ready and a bit of an underdog, but its strong sense of heart and place drives it forwards in a way that makes it hard not to fall for.
Katy Clayton charms in the lead role, her open-mouthed and doe-eyed performance as Janet breaking away from the cookie cutter conventionality of rom-com leading ladies, while Drew-Honey opposite her is just as watchable as “Prince Charmless” Jon. In an oddly sweet scene that typifies the working class worldliness that sums up much of the film, Jon talks about how he doesn't like the packaged and over-presented nature of the humble stick of rock – “it betrays the simple, sweet nature” of the treat itself he says. The romance depicted in Green's film is hardly Shakespeare or Austen, but Lloyd's screenplay has a self-awareness and simplicity that is endearing – Me, Myself and Di is nothing if not exactly what it promises from the trailer and tagline.
Though Lucy Pinder's performance is more than a tad suspect and her character's arc is somewhat infuriating, with a lack of consequence for her cruelty and a lack of believable character growth for Janet's (or the audience's) forgiveness, everyone ends up where they need to be by the film's end. And, on the way there, Green nails the tackiness and campy trappings of the holiday camp world. James Lance's Chris Craven – an unholy amalgam of every creepy second-rate entertainer you ever saw as a child – is deployed to frequently comical effect, while the West Parade, Lyons Robin Hood, and Rhyl's backstreets play host to cheap laughs and low-stakes drama galore. Thanks to a nimble script from Lloyd, we get all this and a cautionary tale against betraying your sense of self that lands pretty well.
It wouldn't be a lie to state that my hopes for a rom-com set in my hometown actually being any good were worryingly low before heading into Me, Myself and Di. That being said though, it is my pleasure to report that, though we haven't got the next When Harry Met Sally on our hands here, we have got a film that feels like a love letter to the town and makes for a fun way to pass an hour and a half. Green's film is the Rhyl deal.
Me, Myself and Di is playing in select cinemas from June 4th.