A monologue by the silken-voiced John Shrapnel is something to look forward to no matter the format, and Justin Stokes’ short film Method Actor is a brilliant vehicle for it. Mere minutes long, it courses through the imagination of an ageing actor as he dispenses bitterly-won advice on how he has gotten where he has, Glenn Smith’s script cleverly weaving its way into unexpected places and DP John Lynch creating a gorgeously lush world for him to inhabit.
Ostensibly a short film though coming in at over 34 minutes, Mike Leigh’s A Running Jump was one of four films co-commissioned by the BBC and Channel 4 as part of the Cultural Olympiad, demonstrating the breadth of British film-making. Devised in his customary improvised style, it follows a hectic day in the Conrad family, focusing on Perry’s efforts to sell an old banger to an unsuspecting punter. It is constantly on the move, there’s nothing officially Olympian here but there’s physical activity in every scene as he rattles from his father, wife and twin daughters to try and sort something out before he loses the customer.
It is undoubtedly entertaining, these vignettes of mostly ordinary East London life are vividly drawn and spill with quotidian humour but its pace is so frenetic and running time insufficient to build up the usual level of emotional involvement one gets with Leigh films. The best moments are earlier on – it feels we learn so much more about Samantha Spiro’s hilariously intense fitness instructor and Sam Kelly’s personable but batty cabbie in their brief scenes at work, than we ever do when their interacting with the family. But with Eddie Marsan as the wheeler-dealing Perry overwhelming car buyer Lee Ingleby with the force of his personality, the quality of the performance and direction makes it a fun watch.
Written by Martin Saunder and directed by David Oyelowo, Big Guy is a rather touching little tale of two social misfits with different but unhealthy relationships with food. Rodney is played by Josh Gad (perhaps better known now as the voice of Olaf from Frozen but also a Tony nominee for The Book of Mormon) and Kate Mara takes on the fragile Kate and together, they manage to sift through all the crap in their world to find a lovely bit of connection that gives them a glimmer of hope for the future. It could be cheesy but Oyelewo keeps it on the right side and a bonus cameo from Charlie Cox always wins prizes.