In terms of plot, ALMOST MARRIED recalls early Seventies efforts such as PERCY'S PROGRESS (1974) in its almost relentless obsession with the penis. The basic framework is straightforward: Kyle (Philip McGinley) is reluctant to go through with his marriage to fiancée Lydia (Emily Attack) in the belief that he has contracted a sexually transmitted disease. After a picaresque series of adventures, including a dash up to Newcastle to visit its brothels, he discovers that he is perfectly healthy, and that the disease has originated from somewhere else.
Ben Cookson's film contains a relentless stream of bawdy jokes, allied to a peculiarly British modesty when it comes to talking about sexual matters. While Kyle and his best friend Jarvis (Mark Stobart) are perfectly happy to dream up increasingly ludicrous methods of overcoming Kyle's problem in the pub over several pints of lager, they are obviously ill-at-ease when they visit the sexual health clinic. At one point Jarvis shouts out "I'm not gay!" to all and sundry, even though he has accompanied Kyle to the hospital. Kyle himself finds it very difficult to talk to the doctor (Val McLane): Cookson's camera focuses on his increasingly troubled countenance as he tries to tell the truth about his sexual past.
The film also depicts the fragility of male bonding: the only way in which Kyle, Jarvis and their mates can get on is to make jokes at one another's expense. Being serious is considered 'weak' - especially at the pub. The only time when Kyle can face up to his dilemma is when he has broken free of Jarvis and set out on his own to confront Lydia with what he thinks is the truth about what happened. ALMOST MARRIED ends with a freeze-frame of him leaving Lydia's house and setting out on his own - for the first time, he understands that he does not need his mates' support to survive.
Set in an unspecified northern town, ALMOST MARRIED has a strong sense of place, as it contrasts the respectable streets of suburban houses with the seedy bars and brothels where Jarvis and Kyle hang out. It is almost as if they are apprehensive about appearing too 'normal' - i.e. ready to settle down and enjoy married life - in case it infringes on their masculine self-images. McGinley delivers a convincing characterization of Kyle, who tries to sustain a laddish image while trying to reflect on his past and future life.
ALMOST MARRIED treads familiar thematic ground, but it does so in a refreshingly unsentimental way.