Like a latter-day Zach Braff, Josh Radnor is a young lead from a successful sitcom (How I Met Your Mother) who branched out by writing, directing and starring in his own heartfelt movie about ennui-plagued 20-somethings. His Happythankyoumoreplease was a 2010 festival hit that failed to get traction in cinemas. Liberal Arts is Radnor's second film and with it he shows he's a film-maker of note. He plays Jesse, a 35-year-old New Yorker who visits his alma mater to attend his favourite professor's retirement party and strikes up a friendship with a comely 19-year-old student (Elizabeth Olsen). One's instinct is to be suspicious of any director who casts himself as the object of a beautiful young girl's affections, but this film kept me onside with its gentle characterisations and earnest spirit. Radnor is a touch blank as an actor, but rising starlet Olsen leaps off the screen. A heavyweight supporting cast (Richard Jenkins, Alison Janney, Zac Efron) keep things lively. Liberal Arts may be little more than a wannabe Woody Allen film, but there are worse film-makers to emulate.

Stars: 4/5
Cast: Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen
Director: Josh Radnor
Rating: M
Running time: 97 mins.

Liberal Arts is out now.