Earlier this month, I had the chance to watch Dating Amber by director/writer David Freyne and saying I loved the film would be an understatement. Dating Amber was fresh, innovative and felt like a film we had not had the chance to see before. Not only did I review it (read my review here) but we also did a giveaway for the film. Last week, I had the chance to speak over Zoom with Lola Petticrew who portrays Amber in the film.
Here’s the interview with Lola.
Lola: Hi! How are you?
Arianne: I’m good, I’m good.
Lola: Good, good.
Arianne: Thank you for taking the time, I know you’re filming right now.
Lola: No, don’t be silly. Pleasure.
Arianne: I want to start by saying I truly enjoyed the movie. It’s rare to see coming of age stories about two queer kids being friends. It never happens.
Arianne: I wanted to know to start, how did you get involved with the project and why did you want to be Amber?
Lola: When I first read the script, I was really excited like you said about the idea that the two co-leads were a gay woman and a gay man, but that the focus of the film was on their platonic friendship and not romantic love. And I thought I hadn’t seen a coming out story like this before and I just thought it was just so funny, I was completely enchanted by it from the start. And Fionn [O’Shea, who plays Eddy in the film] and I always say that sometimes you get a script and you want to do it. And I think with this script, we felt like we had to do it. And you know, playing Amber was a treat. Straight away, she’s bold and loud, she takes up space but she’s also incredibly selfless and has a massive heart.
Arianne: And how did you develop that chemistry between you and Fionn. Was it always there, did you have a chemistry read or was it just there from the beginning?
Lola: Yeah, we had a chemistry read although when we met at the read, we met that day and I think straight away we knew that we would be friends if not co-workers. But I definitely knew that if I was going to get the job that it would be with Fionn. And then after that, we just rehearsed quite a lot actually which is rare for an independent film. Because of that, we got to hang out all the time. So by the time we got to set, you know, we were really best friends and we got to bring a lot of our own chemistry to the film.
Arianne: It read on screen, I could believe it in the friendship. It’s also very easy to relate to Amber because you can see that she has this duality about her where she wants to be herself, but also she is trying to hide who she is. How did you approach this duality in her?
Lola: I think that is kind of everyone, regardless of sexuality, something that is in teens. You kind of feel two sides of the coin. You still kind of figuring yourself out, your kind of wearing this jacket that doesn’t fit anymore and you’ve outgrown it, you don’t know what to do and you can feel like those roots of home are strangling, but I think that everybody feels that way at seventeen years old. Regardless of if you are destined for things bigger and you just need to be able to go and flourish in order to live the life you are meant to. I think that it a really universal experience.
Arianne: I think my favourite scene was the one at the drag show because you can see Amber be free for the first time and the whole scene felt so familiar because of how you guys acted it out with this baby gay face of wonder. How was filming that sequence because it looked like so much fun?
Lola: Yeah, I mean, it was great. Our set designer Emma did an amazing job at the club and Johnny, who was the Drag Queen, is unbelievable and yeah, it was really fun. We kinda shot it all in one shot with our amazing cinematographer Rory, and it was really fun. It was a long day but it was so lush to be with everyone and we were all delighted. Lauren, who played Sarah was in, so I was blushing, it was lovely.
Arianne: Having this movie be a comedy is so different because so many queer films are about us dying, it was refreshing to watch but it also such emotional moments where it had me crying by the end. The film is about hope and friendship, which is rare, I was wondering how were you guys to navigate those two worlds of intense emotions but also the comedic moments?
Lola: I think it’s a very Irish sensibility being able to find in tragedy, it’s sort of embedded in us culturally. And I think that David [Freyne, the director of the film] just managed to write it so gracefully that it slips sort of seamlessly between those things and, you know, it’s true to life. Sometimes the most cringing, horrifying moments make the funniest stories, years later. As painful as they feel at the time. I think, as well, we discussed throughout filming that we really wanted to highlight our difficulties of how it is and was socially and that we wanted to create a hopeful sense at the end of the film and just, you know, those films that you were speaking about are so important and are absolutely true to the experience, but queer people also experience joy. We felt like they deserve to see it on the screen.
Arianne: And I think that is why it works because you can see the sensibility behind it and the care. Did you guys ponder how queer people were going to react to the film? And how has the response been since the film has been out for a while back in the UK through Amazon Prime?
Lola: Yeah, it came out in the UK and Ireland earlier this summer on Amazon which is lovely. And the response has been amazing, it’s been more than any of us could have imagined. Again, when we were making the film we didn’t know what was going to happen with it or what sort of life it was going to have. We just always wanted it to find its audience and it has and it’s been great to see people feel positively represented. You know, if one person feels that, I consider it a good job.
Arianne: Yeah, and what was your favourite scene to film?
Lola: My favourite scene to film? [Thinks for a moment] There literally so many. Every day felt, like, just going in and having fun with my friends and we kept doing that. Every time we would shoot something we would say: “This is my favourite scene.” And then the next day we would be like: “No, this is my favourite scene.” So, I don’t know, the “your bangs” montage was really important. I cried when I first watched that because I think I wish that I had something like that when I was younger. I was really overwhelmed and cried my eyes out. So that scene is really special.
Arianne: I remember watching the dynamic between Amber and her mom and feeling seen because my relationship with my mom was like that growing up. Where I loved her and she loved me but we also didn’t always understand each other. How was creating this relationship?
Lola: Yeah, the tricky thing about Amber’s mom and what Dave’s done brilliantly is that he doesn’t villanize any characters, they’re just people in a situation just trying to do their best to figure it out and Amber’s mom is in a lot of pain and I think sometimes you internalize that pain and also shut out other people. I think in a way that is what Amber’s mom is doing and she’s also probably just afraid, fears for Amber, you know, it was a very socially oppressive time and the idea of your daughter being gay and going out to face the world. I know a lot of parents still make that mistake, they turn their fear into anger. They take it out on the wrong people instead of the systems of oppression, they take it out on their kids. I don’t think she’s a bad person, I think she just scared.
Arianne: She needs to be educated.
Arianne: The fact that the film came out during the lockdown and now with the state of the world, do you think it helped the film and the word of mouth that happened with it?
Lola: Yeah, it was sort of serendipitous because I definitely think it would not have been released as quickly as it has been. So that was really lovely that we got to put it out quickly. I think that when me and Fionn used to speak, we kind of just always saw its home being streaming. I think that’s because it’s something that is really accessible and sometimes queer kids can’t go to the cinema and see a queer film. But you know, if you have your laptop and you’re in your bedroom and you are in the privacy of your own room, that’s something that is accessible and for different ages and stuff, it’s just easier to get to it. We just wanted, first of all, to be released and for everyone to see it. But second of all, we wanted it to find the right people.
Arianne: I think that’s great because I already know that a lot of queer kids will watch it because of the accessibility of it. And they are lucky because they are getting great movies that we didn’t get growing up.
Lola: [Laughs] Yeah, I know.
Arianne: Well thank you for speaking to me, that was great.
Lola: No thank you.
Arianne: Enjoy the rest of your day.
Lola: You as well.
If you are interested in watching Dating Amber the film is available everywhere in North America right now on VOD.