Harborough teenager to star in movie at Cannes Film Festival

Market Harborough actress Jess O'Brien during filming for the movie Flawless, which has been selected to appear at this May's Cannes film festival
Market Harborough actress Jess O'Brien during filming for the movie Flawless, which has been selected to appear at this May's Cannes film festival

A short film starring a 13-year-old from Market Harborough is to be shown at the world-famous Cannes Film Festival.

Jess O’Brien, a pupil at Harborough’s Welland Park Academy, is one of the main characters in Flawless, a movie by the Leicester-based filmmaker Keith Allott.

He told the Mail: “Jess is the most exciting young actress I’ve ever worked with.

“She’s really, really something else.”

The film has done very well on the competitive festival circuit already – it has been selected to play at 13 festivals around the world in countries as far apart as Puerto Rico, India, Spain, Serbia, Switzerland and Singapore.

And it will be at French festival Cannes, arguably the world’s most prestigious film festival, in May.

Speaking to the Mail, Jess said: “I started acting in about 2012, when I was ten, in a show for Parsnips Youth Theatre in Harborough.

“I’m not really sure where I got the urge to act from, and I was really surprised, because I never thought I could do it.”

Jess explained she had been “really shy” at primary school, but acting has helped her confidence.

“Now I think to be an actor you have to be willing to be embarrassed and to look stupid, and I quite like that,” she said.

Jess, who still goes to Parsnips as well as attending the Pauline Quirke Academy in Leicester, said Flawless is her first film project.

She said: “There’s no scripted dialogue – the dialogue is in voiceover – so all the acting is silent. I actually really liked the challenge.”

And already her acting life has brought her a bit of glamour. Soon Jess is off to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands; one of the places where Flawless is being shown.

Jess’s mum Emma O’Brien said: “There’s no acting in the family at all, so I’m amazed by her. She was very, very shy growing up, but on stage she was a different person; her teachers were very shocked at her on stage.”

Filmmaker Mr Allott said Flawless is an emotional tale about how a woman deals with loss, both as a young girl and as an adult.

“The response we got back from test screenings was brilliant,” he said.

“People said the film was emotional, but the emotion wasn’t spoon-fed to you.

“I suppose it’s about parental love, so it’s got that commonality, and it seems to have struck a chord with audiences.”