The Movie Waffler Shorts Showcase - ONE IN A MILLION / SOMETHING BLUE / NUMB | The Movie Waffler

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Shorts Showcase - ONE IN A MILLION / SOMETHING BLUE / NUMB

Reviews of three recent shorts.






Reviews by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)


One in a Million

Meet teenage Kevin (Eddie Chamberlain), main character of Patrick Ireland’s notable micro-budget short One in a Million. Kevin has it bad; skiving school due to peer pressure, viciously bullied in his foster home and hot and bothered by his burgeoning puberty. Unhappy at this lot, the autistic orphan places all hope in an unlikely pipe dream: winning the national lottery. As the odds stated in the film’s title imply; fat chance kid.

A graduate project (but as well put together as any other, more professional, short film), One in a Million bears the hallmarks of an earnest young film maker with something to say. Kevin’s plans for spending his lotto-millions unimaginatively run to a big house, a swimming pool and a fast car: the limited, magazine aspirations sold to the gullible by mass media as nominal circumstances of success and contentment. It’s clear that, like other ‘gamblers’ who would bet their destiny upon the circumscribed fate of a bookmaker’s pay-out, Kevin simply, and heartbreakingly, covets escape from his given situation. To exemplify his point, Ireland contrasts Kevin’s condition, his inherent innocence, with the grim misery of the world that he is stuck in. Kevin’s days are spent watching a ned pal shoplift, face abuse from kids in the park, and, at home, a bully (Leo) with a big knife threatens to slice off Kevin’s ‘dick’ and instead leave him with a ‘cunt’, to which Kevin’s voiceover pledges to use some of his eventual windfall to ‘make Leo happy’- aww.

Yes, One in a Million is bleak AF, with a raw presentation of working class life presented within its antithetically gorgeous, monochrome photography. Indeed, the way in which the characters speak to each other is a little overwhelming at points, with the film’s dialogue repeatedly (and bizarrely) focussing on all things penile… a sample interchange runs, ‘you cock tease…fuck you dick face…I know for a fact you’ve had more dicks in your face than me… come here you prick’; an insistent phallic doggerel that belies the otherwise careful subtlety of the filmmaking. At one point Kevin’s mate leaps a waist high fence with ease, while Kevin, in the background, awkwardly scrambles over it, the shot neatly expressing character; while the widescreen shots of the sea combine the theme of rolling, inevitable fate and Kevin’s lonely place within its narrative. These are the suggestions of a talented film maker.  The end credits reveal with pleasing irony that the film was actually funded in part by the National Lottery - at least some good has come out of that ruthless racket of bonus balls and broken dreams.



Something Blue

The potential for Kevin in One in a Million to enjoy a healthy romantic relationship is unlikely, due, the film suggests, to his autism and the subsequent emotional barriers his condition would entail. However, this is not an outcome that is exclusive to individuals upon the outer extremities of the disorder spectrum. In the short but sour Something Blue, we see an enigmatic, quietly devastating portrayal of a long-term marriage which could apply to anyone.

Explaining the exact details of this bitter vignette would probably take longer than its terse running time. Suffice to say that we open in a typical suburban kitchen, where, in joylessly practised motions and the occasional mournful stare into camera, an older gent sets the table for breakfast. His brittle wife joins him, and the dialogue, ostensibly the phatic pitter patter of married existence, grows increasingly artificial: in a Pinter-esque fashion, each phrase is disguised, rehearsed platitudes that camouflage a mutual weariness.
SPOILER – As the tension seems to build, it's imaginable that the film is working towards a reveal that suggests a concrete source for the couple's hemmed in misery (I thought the previous death of a child, for example), but we end with no catharsis, or even a resolution. Instead writer/director Joseph Johnson bravely ends the film on the limping sadness of two compromised lives: a mark of his complete confidence. Watch it here



Numb

Further characters find themselves at the mercy of compromise in Penelope Lawson’s Numb. But whereas the married-alive couple in Something Blue enact an anti-love story, Lawson’s short aches with the loss of love’s potential.

We open in an Indian restaurant where a portly fella waxes lyrical about the curry he is scarfing to a young woman (Astrid - Rebecca Martos) in the booth opposite. With a bored look on her face, as if compelled, she intones in reply to the corpulent stranger, ‘If I asked you to fuck me, right now, would you do it?’. Probably not, you’re thinking, after the vindaloo he’s just inhaled, but then again Astrid is quite striking: her aggressive sensuality telegraphed by a leopard print top, thigh high boots and amazing, asymmetrical hair. The low-rent gormand can’t believe his luck, but for Astrid, a sex addict, this is yet another slip into a darkening pit of promiscuity, self-disgust and addiction.

Remember that god-awful Michael Fassbender film, Shame? The one that took sex addiction as a subject matter too, but aligned enjoying a bit of the other with lots of different people as a natural indicator of mental imbalance, and male homosexual sex as the lowest moral depth, with compromised heteronormative coupling as the solitary aspiration that every right thinking person should strive towards? Well, Numb creates more drama, sorrow and human sympathy in its beautifully crafted 10 minutes than Steve McQueen managed in full feature length. Lawson’s film is enigmatic and sensitive, with subtle performances that present an unusual affliction as utterly heart-breaking. With her boyfriend dead following a bizarre accident where he fell from a height, Astrid, to paraphrase an alcoholic from her support group, fucks to forget. The ramifications of her boyfriend’s death upon Astrid is expressed through an iconography of vertiginous shots; bubbles in a glass, a dangling lightbulb. We get the sense of a life adjourned, cursed by chance, wherein a feature of existence which should be endlessly pleasurable and life affirming is reconfigured as desperate and hopelessly unfulfilling. Like scratching at a wound, Astrid’s attempts to ease her suffering simply serve to cut deeper.

A courageous film that balances the potential prurience of its subject matter with compassionate characterisation and unflinching storytelling.

Numb, indeed.




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