Another coming-of-ager (a U.K. export, this time) takes awhile to get down to the deeper implications from its title, and even with some nice performances, it hardly effaces fond memories of a more fully realized one like An Education.
Still, Albatross gets some mileage from its talent which features Sebastian Koch, Julia Ormond, Felicity Jones, and especially newcomer Jessica Brown-Findlay. The latter enters the proceedings as Emilia, an aspiring writer, possibly the great granddaughter of renowned novelist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Emilia pretty quickly becomes a housecleaner at a Seaside Hotel managed by married couple Jonathan (Koch, who appeared in Unknown) and Joa (Ormond, from My Week With Marilyn and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). Both haven't had the kind of success professionally they've expected from themselves, hers as an actress, his still as a frustrated author.
Director Niall McCormack gives Brown-Findlay the latitude to exude charisma from Emilia's mischievous, coquettish nature in rendering some sharp, polished images with his capable craftspeople, using the setting advantageously. Also, in drawing solid interplay between Emilia and the couple's bookish daughter Beth (an appealing Jones who brought energy as a collegiate in the elliptical, yet intimate Like Crazy) from whose vantage point the storytelling emerges. Even if a beguiling presence like Emilia would appear to be the film's ideal protagonist.
So, if Emilia isn't a good influence on her new bosses and daughter with a welcome break from studying and some seducing, the script also becomes more weighted with her life with grandfather (Peter Vaughan). Yet, it isn't harnessed to better emotional effect, through the struggle within awkwardness and relationships while emphasizing (perhaps too hamfistedly) honest truths concerning maturity and being able to not be moored by the past.
Albatross may not coalesce creditably (think of a scene with a creative writing tutor) or find its center convincingly enough, but it's hard not to find it unwatchable because of the effortless ebullience espoused by Brown-Findlay. A lighter, risque touch through Emilia probably has enough interest to make it a fairly pleasant diversion with Koch and a droll Ormond adding some depth to usually rote characterizations, and enough precocious insight from Jones. Even if the filmmaking doesn't quite cleverly face up to the expectations of a genre unafraid of sprawling out and wearing out its welcome.