Television Review: BBC HD Film Shorts

“Why won’t you listen to me”

A bit of random thing that only came to my attention because of a kind soul on Twitter, this collection of five short films from the last few years presented by the BBC Film Network and BBC HD, offered the opportunity to notch up bonus appearances from Andrew Scott and Rafe Spall, as well as appreciating some up and coming filmmaking talent.

Scott’s film is Silent Things in which he plays Jake, a guy with Asperger’s who strikes up an unlikely camaraderie with a quirky teenager, Georgia Groome’s Amy who challenges him to test his boundaries with mixed results and which in turn also threatens his friendship with Charlotte, also autistic and who resents the closeness that Jake is able to achieve with others. Written by Rob Brown and Edward Jackson, it is small but perfectly formed and elevated by all three performances from its leads, not just Scott. Predictably he is excellent, unshaven and more unkempt than we’re used to seeing him, his is a performance of great subtlety leading us to empathise strongly with Jake’s predicament. Antonia Campbell-Hughes’ Charlotte suffers more severely and so is less able to socialise, her bluntness still sensitively portrayed though and the self-determined drive neatly suggested. Groome is also good and altogether, it made for an engaging short piece.

Modern Life is Rubbish was also amongst my favourites here, Rafe Spall and Rebecca Night starring as a recently split-up couple who are going through the traumatic experience of dividing their music collection and ruminating on their relationship, their potential future friendship and what might have been. It is very well written, Philip Gawthorne picking up on so many of the tiny awkward details like attending the same social events after the split, being brutally honest about the things you didn’t like about the other and the ease with which one can fall back into intimacy without even thinking about it. And well performed too, Spall’s traditional music obsessive railing against greatest hits collections and the very existence of the iPod, his bluffness not quite able to mask his breaking heart as Rebecca Night tries to remain pragmatic as the one who has moved out and so not wanting to spend any more time there than is necessary.

The other 3 films were not quite as successful for me, and not just because they didn’t have actors I particularly like, honest! Stephanie Zari and Samantha Whitaker’s Marigolds tried a little too hard for my liking, both pushing it with its subject matter of an over-bearing mother who se relationship to her son is close to unnatural and threatens to spill over when he returns home for a visit, and with Zari’s direction which is overly arty without real effect, the final tracking shot felt painful too me. Jane Guernier is intriguing as the mother but too little is left unsaid or unexplored to really make it work. Babak Anvari’s Bafta-nominated Two and Two is a slightly surreal fable of a tale set in a (Iranian?) school where the regime institute unreasonable change with tragic consequences but it was a little too obscure for me. Chris Dundon’s Bro was the best of the rest, a sweetly affirming drama of a young teenager trapped on a dull council estate and overburdened with the responsibility of caring for his brother who is suffering from Fragile X syndrome as his mother goes out to work leaving him to cope.

So who knows why these five were lumped together, but they were an entertaining bunch and at about 15 minutes each, never long enough to really test the patience if you weren’t enjoying them. Fans of Spall and Scott should enjoy this a lot, as should most of you to be honest, but be quick, it’s only on the iPlayer for another couple of days.

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