The feelings of men often go unsaid or acknowledged. If we don’t bring them up, how can we ever actually address anything that is bothering us, and how does that affect us as we grow older? In Saul Abraham’s Enjoy, one man is responsible for the intellectual well-being of one of his students, but he soon realizes that he sees more in his ward than he anticipated.
Himesh Patel plays Michael, a tutor whose student, Archie (Tom Sweet) doesn’t show him an ounce of respect. Dealing with that anger and resentment is invading Michael’s personal life, and adding to the depression and anxiety he is currently battling. Screenwriter Callum Cameron divulged that Enjoy is more autobiographical than we might anticipate, and we immediately feel that honesty. Do men simply need to talk about their feelings more?
“The story of the film is fairly autobiographical, and it was an attempt for me to explore those feelings,” Cameron said. “It’s inherent in a lot of men who aren’t good at talking about that. It was always an intention to explore that area, and, I think, the film opens that up in a quiet and nuanced way. We wanted to show how those feelings of depression do manifest themselves and they can be suppressed and become anger and it continues in that rhythm. The initial intention was to show the young boy can reflect the older man. What might happen if Archie carries on the way he is? I wanted to explore how that suppression comes to light. Saul and I had this frequent idea that the character in it is quite articulate and he can talk about their feelings in a social setting. He has the tools at his disposal to address his mental health, but he can’t seem to do it. That was something that we were most interested in.”
“Callum and I found that we are good at talking about feelings we’ve had but actually, in the moment when you’re most vulnerable, we found that we didn’t have the language for it,” Abraham revealed. “We were drawn to that. We had a lot of positive conversations about this topic, and a lot of them are helpful. [I could say], ‘I suffered from depression in the past’ or ‘I was suffering, but now I am through it,’ and we noticed it was past tense. It was seen as the power in talking about it. What was challenging was talking about it when you’re feeling those emotions in the moment. That was a lot of work that we did with Himesh. His character is someone who understands what is going on, and he is taking steps to help himself. He is going to therapy, but, at the same time, there is a block there.”
Archie can be quite cruel to Michael, but he might not even be aware of how his words affect his tutor. He criticizes Michael’s attempts to perform, and, until he lashes out, Michael draws the line line between student and teacher very clearly. Establishing the relationship was essential for a short film, and we joked at how easily young teenagers have the potential to knock you down with one scathing remark.
“In those early scenes, it was about trying to show Michael’s slight passivity in the grander scheme of the whole film, and we wanted to establish that Archie had more about him than just his anger,” Cameron said. “He is quick smart, and he doesn’t seem to think that he needs to respect Michael at all. He teases Michael about his ambitious to help make the payoff more effective. If, by the end, there isn’t forgiveness, there is hopefully a glimmer of respect.”
“There is that thing with kids that they never have any filter,” Abraham added quickly. “I think Archie quite likes Michael, but he is bored and he is suffering from everything in his head. It’s more brutal coming from a kid. They can cut so much deeper, because they are so observant. You can’t say anything back.”
“It is very different as a private tutor rather than a hectic school environment. The children can be just as brutal, but maybe they can be more concentrated when it’s one-on-one,” Cameron said.
Casting was everything for Enjoy. The plot hinges on the performances from Himesh Patel and Tom Sweet, and their evolution (even over the course of 18 minutes) is seen in real time. If Archie rages, Michael might worry that his professionalism is on the line even though it is taking a clear toll on him. Patel, one of the most considerate actors of his generation, never makes Michael pathetic. Sweet has a considerable presence for such a young performer.
“Himesh is a friend of ours, and he was around for a lot of the development process,” Abraham said. “It was the first time that we shot something with him, though. I think he is a bit of a screen acting genius in how he understands the subtly of screen acting, and he is so present. He always gives us options, and he is very playful with each take. He doesn’t have a lot of lines when you think about it, but he really holds you. We were nervous about who would play Archie, because the film only survives if he and Michael work. We auditioned 30 to 40 kids, and some of them were good at the bullying while some were better at the heartbreaking stuff. We had chemistry sessions with Himesh as well. With Tom, as soon as it was done, we knew he was right. It’s very rare to have an actor of that age who listens as much as he does.”
As a resolution slowly comes, Michael and Archie begin to bond, and Archie apologizes in a quiet moment. To see a young person articulate that directly is what makes Enjoy such a specific film. He asks his teacher if the sadness ever goes away, and Michael screws up his face as if he wants to say, “it doesn’t,” but he can’t disappoint him. Sometimes we have to lie to each other to help get through.
“Even on the day of shooting, we had an alternative line,” Cameron said. “It was a bit more resolved and tied up, and we agreed that it was a more honest way of doing it. Himesh bites his lip, and it indicates that he doesn’t really believe that. Or he is struggling with that idea. When we were working through the script, we realized that less is more. That scene in itself, and the economy of it, and how little they say is representative of the film. They have started to address the problem even if they don’t tackle it entirely.”
There is one element that the writer and director are staying mum on. Michael uses swimming as a form of therapy, but there is one bearded swimmer that Michael almost admires from afar. Does he have his stuff together? Is he, too, depressed and dealing with dark feelings? I interpreted it as we all have to follow the rules set out for us in order for us to guide ourselves towards a happier future.
“We are hesitant to say too much of what he is,” Abraham said. “We quite like that the audience has their own ideas. We’ve heard some great theories and opinions, and some are quite impressive. On a more basic level, it was someone who Michael thought had his shit together, so he copies him. We like to keep it a little mysterious for what he stands for. I think my favorite theory was when a woman thought he epitomized depression. I thought that was very deep. We’ll take it.”
Enjoy is streaming now on Disney+.