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While “Derry Girls” continues to be the last word in young, raucous female rebellion on the Emerald Isle, “A Bump Along the Way” has a little something to add. Sin the same Northern Irish city as the hit Netflix sitcom, but shedding the ’90s nostalgia for the Snapchat age, Shelly Love’s appealing, unassuming debut feature is a bright reminder that while Derry girls may grow up, they don’t entirely grow out of their antics. Tracing the up-and-down relationship between insecure “15-going-on-50” highschooler Allegra (Lola Petticrew) and her single mother Pam (Bronagh Gallagher), a persistent party girl stunned to find herself pregnant in her mid-forties, Love’s film skirts televisual territory in its cozy, visually flat comedy of clashing sensibilities. Yet the more sharply empathetic insights of Tess McGowan’s screenplay do poke through the cheer, gently handling subjects ranging from patriarchal neglect to adolescent bullying.
This year’s Santa Barbara festival opener, “A Bump Along the Way” built a quiet fest-circuit profile for itself in 2019, winning first on turf at the Galway Film Fleadh before making its international premiere in Toronto’s Discovery program. A small U.K. release followed, as did a newcomer citation for Love at the British Independent Film Awards, but this is a cross-generational charmer likeliest to find its following on streaming platforms. With any luck, it may also be remembered as a highly auspicious big-screen arrival for young Irish star Petticrew, who brings tenderly bruised authenticity to a character who could have been played merely as a standard collection of teen anxieties; her flinty chemistry with reliable pro Gallagher keeps things on track even when proceedings veer into more predictable hugging and learning.
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