“Now that we’re married, you won’t mind giving us that double.”
Marc (Tom Bateman) and Fred (Sean Teale) were refused a double bed when they first entered the St. Jude bed and breakfast. A year later, after a lengthy lawsuit, the couple return to claim the spoils of victory. Their stay won’t be a comfy one, though. The owner, Josh (Paul McGann), steadfastly refuses them their double bed, instead, instituting twin beds for all patrons. The shots across the bow don’t stop there as Marc quietly makes life as difficult for Josh as possible. Interrupting this weekend of retaliation is a third guest, who arrives with Russian stars and sinister intentions.
While Marc and Fred try to interpret the ambiguous actions of the third guest, Josh’s son Paul (Callum Woodhouse) marks this anniversary as his own coming out day. What was supposed to be a weekend of fun quickly turns into a cat-and-mouse thriller where what’s expected doesn’t necessarily play out as such. Writer-director Joe Ahearne plays with the preconceived notions of each character’s part to play before settling into the more common conventions of the genre.
And, oh, what horrors befall this remote Christian bed & breakfast. To create such a scenario requires a droll sense of humor and the film is not without laughs. If the film had been nothing more than a battle of wits between Marc and Josh over equality set in the small confines of the bed and breakfast, nothing would have made me happier. Both men are engaged in a dance where legality must be followed, but cooler heads rarely prevail. And nowhere do the two butt heads more than over the subject of the mysterious third guest. Once Fred’s lingering doubts about the Russian’s motives infiltrate Marc’s thoughts, the couple brings their concerns to Josh, who immediately chastises both for their intolerance.
An otherwise throwaway role as a bigoted innkeeper doesn’t keep Paul McGann from delivering the most interesting performance in the film. Venturing from outright disgust to Marc and Fred’s marriage, to genuine remorse, and back again. Tom Bateman and Sean Teale are a well-paired duo; Marc’s righteous anger bouncing off of Fred’s empathetic tendencies. All three actors are genuine in their portrayals, preventing the film from waning into hackneyed stereotypes. Rather than shallowly engage with the politics of equality, Joe Ahearne ties the politics of B&B back to the story intrinsically, resulting in a more satisfying narrative.
There is little technical wizardry to speak of, though the director has some fun with night-vision camera shots. What audiences will leave with is a scaled-down thriller that knows just which genre notes to check off even when it decides to lean more toward comedy. It’s a perilous combination of tones, but Ahearne and the cast all manage to occupy both ends of the dramatic spectrum wonderfully. Running at a spritely 84 minutes, B&B should feel more compelling, yet the film runs out of steam at the end. A natural ending occurs five minutes before the credits roll, but even that slight error can be forgiven considering other how many other movies are playing at a 2.5-hour clip.