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This awkward British feelgood cancer comedy by director Victor Buhler never entirely comes together, switching from serious to silly and not exactly comfortable in either tone or register. What Running Naked has got going for it are two likable supporting performances by Samuel Bottomley and James Senneck as Mark and Ben, teenage cancer patients who meet in a Manchester hospital. Bored and terrified, they make mischief on the wards. (There’s a funny scene in which they make a break for it, reaching as far as the carpark before realising there’s nowhere to go, and skulk back to their beds.)
Skip ahead 15 years, and the film is on shakier ground. Now in their 30s, Mark and Ben (played by Matthew McNulty and Andrew Gower, respectively) survived but live with an increased risk of developing cancer as adults. Mark is a doctor on the same ward where the pair were treated as lads. He’s the more successful of the two, but is held back emotionally by a nagging fear that bad things happen to him. So he laddishly dumps the love of his life, fellow doctor Jade (Rakhee Thakrar), before anything goes wrong with the relationship. Still, he’s loyal to his old mate Ben.
Grownup Ben is more problematic. He’s dweeby, anaemic-looking and wears a terrible cardboard-coloured suit – imagine Jarvis Cocker playing Mr Bean. Since remission he has suffered from hygiene-related obsessive behaviours, and there is something questionable in the way his struggles get played for laughs. The script here is unkind and unfunny, and perhaps actually backfires, since many of us can now relate to applying hand sanitiser every five minutes. The plot hinges on a twist you can see coming for miles; this is one of those Britfilms with a sitcom feel. It might have worked better over four or five episodes with sharpening of the script – and more teenage pranks.
• Available from 8 February on digital formats.
Source: The Guardian
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