Short films have never had quite the same attention placed upon them as feature length films. However, with a new scheme launched by New British Cinema Quarterly, in partnership with independent distributors Soda Pictures, it seems that’s set to change in a very positive way. The Joy of Six (2012), a collection of six short films from up-and-coming British talent, offers a unique and innovative way for audiences to discover and potentially embrace the short film format. The six shorts, starring Peter Mullan, Judi Dench and Tom Hiddleston amongst others, range in length and quality, though thankfully none are terrible or too morbid.
The first, Long Distance Information, explores the strained relationship between a father and son. As Jack (Mullan) relaxes on Christmas Day as his wife busies herself in the kitchen, the phone ring and so begins a tense, awkward and muted phone exchange between Jack and his unseen son Alex. Douglas Hart’s direction, which cuts back and forth between a dirtied, muted Jack and an on-edge and nervous Alex, instantly evokes a deeply fraught and murky image of the relationship. From this, it’s clear he’s a natural at complex subtexts.
The next two segments, Man in Fear and A Gun for George, are both interesting films full of potential (the former is a twisted thriller about a man convinced someone is devising clever ways of killing him, while the latter is a 70s-style vigilante thriller about a pulp fiction writer who decides to avenge his brother’s death by going on a killing spree), but perhaps feel too limited in their current, short-of-time formats. It’s reassuring then to know that the multi-talented Matthew Holness, director of A Gun for George and creator of Channel 4’s wonderful Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, is already working on a full-length adaptation of his own short, with the full backing of British indie specialists Warp Films.
Scrubber, the aforementioned title directed by Garai, is perhaps the collections most intriguing and well-executed entry. It centres on Jenny (Amanda Hale), a single mother who decides to leave her baby with a next door neighbour and explore the area surrounding her house. When she reaches the road, she’s picked up by a passing stranger and forced to choose between the unfamiliar and the familiar. Garai’s direction, much like her acting, is tight and fixed, with Kate Reid’s cinematography perfectly capturing Jenny’s inner conflict.
Dan Sully’s horror-esque entry about a chip shop murder spree follows, while Friend Request Pending, a comedy about social networking starring Dench as a mature woman being sucked into the world of online dating, completes the collection in an amusing, warm-hearted manner. The Joy of Six is something a little different, but it’s nonetheless worth checking out. If you’re looking for an entry point into the world of short films, than this is probably the collection for you.