Kiera Knightley stars as Megan, a woman in her late 20s who never managed to get her life together. With her many of her friends getting married and starting families, Megan begins to wonder whether the life she has made is truly one that she wants. When her boyfriend proposes, Megan fakes a trip to a career seminar to get some space. Lacking a place to stay, she crashes on the couch of her new friend Annika (Moretz), who just so happens to be at the age where Megan’s emotional development was stifled.
Say When was originally titled Laggies in the US and elsewhere, and although this is obviously a slang term that works in certain places and not in others, it somehow seems like a better title than the awfully generic title that we have got over here. Laggies evokes the feeling of someone who is lagging behind, and this is precisely the struggle that Megan faces in the film.
Kiera Knightley is making great role choices of late, and Say When is no exception; the film gives Knightley a chance to move away from the tightly wound characters she has become notorious for playing. Knightley plays Megan as a woman coasting through life and happy enough to do it, although she is unsure when all the pressure on her to conform began. Her friends are moving in different directions, and she is happy to be carried along by life, until her boyfriend proposes. Knightley makes Megan an incredibly likeable character, and even though she can often behave like a petulant child, it is easy for the audience to relate to her, and the factors that have contributed to her stymied life.
Chloe Grace Moretz actually plays a character who is close to her age, who behaves like a 17 year old should – obsessed with boys and prom – rather than some of the more mature characters she has played in the past. This is a welcome change for the actress, and it is gratifying to see her take a more relaxed role. Sam Rockwell shines in the film, and many of the comedic moments come from him and his interactions with Megan and Annika. Rockwell makes Craig gentle and endearing, and he – along with Knightley – forms the heart of the film. The rest of the cast is made up of Ellie Kemper on brilliantly bitchy form, Jeff Garlin, and Mark Webber.
Andrea Seigel’s screenplay is one of warmth and tragicomedy. We are never invited to judge Megan for where she has ended up in her life, but asked to trust that she has found herself here, and is as bewildered as everyone else. The characters are well formed and are people that the audience could well recognise from their own lives. The trouble is that the film is largely predictable and, although it is a nice journey to go on, it is hardly one filled with mystery or surprise. Director Lynn Shelton’s previous film – Your Sister’s Sister – was one that took many unexpected and complicated turns, but the ending of Say When can be seen a mile off, and little is done to disguise the film’s destination. That said, Shelton directs capably, and injects the film with warmth and comedy.
Say When is an endearing film about finally deciding not to coast through life. The performances from the central trio are warm and engaging and, although the film errs on the side of predictable, the emotional payoff is still there.