British short films can be notoriously hit and miss, but this new collection collated by the New British Cinema Quarterly contains some truly brilliant original ideas with a surprisingly all star cast. Whilst some of the shorts may only have five minutes to leave an impression, each is individual and memorable in their own, often opposing, styles.

The first of the collection, Douglas Hart’s Long Distance Information is the rather forlorn tale of a fractured family in suburban Britain who attempt to set aside their differences on a rather dreary Christmas Day. Peter Mullan is a commanding but hateful father, endlessly chain smoking whilst speaking to the rather agitated young son on the other end of the phone, a conversation which is so awkward and estranged that it’s hard to believe the two men are related.

Will Jewell’s Man In Fear, was one of the highlights of the collection. The short follows the paranoid misadventures of a man convinced that conceptual artists are out to murder him. Such a simple idea is executed perfectly both with through the many nods to contemporary art littered throughout the piece and Luke Treadaway’s performance as the stuttering, desperate victim – adding such a strong sense of inevitability in the lead up to a superbly shot and co-ordinated ending.

The halfway mark of the collection is Matthew Holness’ A Gun for George, the tale of a depressed and isolated Terry Finch writer of the ‘suburban revenge fantasies’ series, The Reprisalizer. The short in many ways feels like a cross between Life on Mars and Holness’ earlier project, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, with the switch from grey northern reality to 1970’s crime drama narrated in the similar tongue-in-cheek style of Darkplace. There are rumours that this short may be turned into a full feature film for next year so don’t be surprised if we see more of the Reprisalizer’s war on the mean streets of Kent, and remember ‘In today’s world, justice comes too slow, unless its decapitation’.
The longest of the shorts, Scrubber, by Romola Garai explores the character of Jenny (Amanda Hale), a woman very much stuck in the far too peaceful suburbs whilst struggling with the needs of family, the obsessions of her OCD and the seediness of her desire for dogging. Hale’s performance is hauntingly conflicted with her soft often unemotional voice being complemented by her often confused facial expressions. The washed out palette of the piece along with its unresolved ending creates a fittingly uncomfortable and powerful viewing experience.

The shortest of the pieces, The Ellington Kid, presents a modern spin on the classic horror tale of Sweeny Todd, answering the age old question of what cheap kebab shop burgers are made of. Director Dan Sully’s use of short edited together cuts does much to create a fast paced macabre action piece, allowing even this five minute short to stay memorable.

Closing out the billing is Chris Foggin’s Friend Request Pending, starring Judy Dench in one of her most vulnerable roles as a pensioner exploring the new world of online dating as well as the perils of Facebook messaging. Whilst this could easily fall into the overused sit-com routine of the comic technologically ignorant OAP, Dench’s surprisingly foul-mouthed performance is genuinely heart-warming and a nice change from her stern role as M. The surprise appearance of Tom Hiddleston is also welcomed and whilst he is on screen for barely a minute it works well to round off not only the short but the collection itself.

The Joy of Six, is a truly enjoyable collection of the best of British short films, despite each of the shorts having their own feel and story to tell the collection as a whole works surprisingly well. with the prospect of at least one of these shorts being converted into a feature length film, it seems that the British film industry is most definitely alive and kicking with much more to offer in the future.

Frank Green

 

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