The best cultural experiences, no matter the medium, is the way that it can make one feel. So where classic Broadway-inspired choreography makes my soul soar, musical comedies make me laugh helplessly and my painstakingly curated iTunes collection can fit any mood I want, this group of shorts contains two films that made me weep for days, I’m welling up just thinking about one of them now, and so I am pleased to be able to them with you. The first and the last are the weepies, with a smattering of less sad films mixed in the middle.
Haydn Gwynne is one of those actresses whom I love and I know I love, but I’d be hard-pressed to name too much that I’ve seen her in as I have seen her often enough for my liking. Fortunately, I recently caught her in the searingly powerful touring version of Duet for One so her immense talent was still fresh in my mind as I turned to this short film Lullaby. (Interestingly, she has done quite a few shorts so I’ve been able to see a bit more of her since I started watching them.)
It may be kind of beside the point, but I’m not going to say too much at all about it, aside from urging you to watch it. Written and directed by Kevin Markwick, Gwynne is simply sensational in what is essentially a monologue of most moving poignancy which builds cleverly across the 12 minutes of its running time. Shot beautifully by Ole Bratt Birkeland on a Kent hilltop and scored attractively with Stephen Barton’s swelling music, it is an absolutely gorgeous little piece of film that I’d highly recommend.
Oscar and Jim
He thinks they’re on a romantic city break, she reckons it is a dirty weekend; he wants to see Jim Morrison’s grave, she wants to see tomb of Oscar Wilde; she considers herself a traveller where he is avowedly a tourist. Split across 13 short vignettes, Oscar and Jim is full of loads of wry dialogue and banter as an ill-matched couple fill the last few hours of their trip to Paris by getting lost in a cemetery. They argue about whether a madeleine is a cake or a biscuit, his lack of sex drive, who is the best at map-reading and challenge each other on their knowledge of the person who they want to visit, it’s all spiky, charming stuff and huge amounts of fun to watch.
Iain Weatherby’s script sparkles with sharp humour as Charlie Covell’s prickly Emma tries to exude a knowing nonchalance in the face of Harry Lloyd’s romantic-minded Jerry and there’s a genuine pull in their bickering, characterised by an entirely recognisable dynamic that so frequently occurs when relationships are tested on a holiday. The film is perhaps a little long altogether as it stretches its point a tad too much, but it’s another one to add to the list, especially to see Lloyd acting so adorably dorkily.
Curiosity is a short horror film featuring Emily Blunt and Tom Riley as a young couple who get swept up in a gruesome turn of events when they witness a shadowy neighbour disposing of what looks like a body in the garden next door. I found it an effective film rather than spectacular, the scares are neatly done but never really chill the bone until the final moments and though it is undoubtedly well acted – it’s Emily Blunt, how could it not be – the whole film never really comes to life in the way one feels it ought.
New Year’s Eve
Written and directed by Colin Spector, New Year’s Eve is a 2002 short film, probably most notable for starring a young Keira Knightley. Stephen Mangan’s David is on his way to a highbrow New Year’s Eve party with a friend Matt and ends up inviting their working-class cab driver into the affair to ruffle the feathers of his host. When there, David gets chatting and a bit too close to Knightley’s Leah, Paul makes small talk and little headway with the various women of the party and the cab driver causes minor havoc as he punctures the air of superiority he finds around him.
It’s all a bit too shiny and glib to have any real impact though. The characters are shallow and have little of interest to impart, no real insight comes from their interactions, the short just trundles on and then peters out with an underwhelming ending. This YouTube clip loses sound just before it finishes but sadly, I didn’t even mind. I made a cursory attempt to lipread but I can say you ain’t missing too much if you do decide to watch this.
Wish 143 is an achingly sad yet powerfully uplifting story of David, a teenage boy with terminal cancer who given the opportunity for a final wish from a benevolent charity, eschews the traditional trip to Disneyland to state his desire to lose his virginity before he dies. He’s not joking either and what follows is one of the most beautiful pieces of story-telling you will have the privilege to watch for quite some time. The short follows the relationship between David, played with a bruising frankness by Sam Holland and Jim Carter’s kindly priest who is a regular visitor to the hospital and who helps the youngster in more ways than one might have imagined.
Written by Tom Bidwell who suffered from cancer in his own youth, David’s journey is charted with a burning honesty, his burgeoning teenage feelings straitjacketed by his experiences as his cancer ravages his body. What emerges is such a moving portrayal of a boy’s emotional longing, him learning to separate sex from love even as he has so little time to fall in love himself, the cruel realities of daring to dream for things because you know they will never come true. By the time Jodie Whittaker’s compassionate Maggie appears, your heart will be so touched that I defy anyone to stay dry-eyed during this section of the film, it is just excellent. I couldn’t recommend this more and if you don’t believe me, how about the fact that this was actually nominated for an Oscar in 2009. Watch it!