Film Reviews / Indie Film / Streaming / Television

Reviews: EE BAFTA British Short Film nominations

This weekend sees the mighty EE BAFTAs grace the historic Royal Albert Hall, and it looks set to be another intriguing year with some incredible films and talent up for the big awards. While we’re all familiar about the big names and major films up for a BAFTA, here at Critical Popcorn we love discovering new talent and seeing what clever up-and-coming filmmakers are producing.

With that in mind, we’ve been lucky enough to see all five short films up for the British Short Film award and there’s an exciting selection of intrigue on every level of genre and style, from documentary to horror and thrillers. As the awards are on Sunday night, we thought it’s the perfect time to entice you in and offer a little review on each title and, also, how you can watch them online this weekend. I also review the films up for British Short Animation, click here for them.

73 Cows – dir. Alex Lockwood

Lockwood’s 73 Cows is a short documentary with the underlying narrative of the re-housing of a herd of farm cows who are destined for the life of human consumption but, the real-life tale has a very distinct twist. Taking place at Bradley Nock Farm, we’re introduced to Jay and Kayta Wilde, a couple who have inherited the farm from Jay’s father. Left with cattle and an expected way of life, Jay feels that his animals shouldn’t be for slaughter and is fighting with himself to keep running the farm as it was, because it’s against his beliefs. Jay is softly-spoken and comes across as deeply empathetic, you can sense his sadness in being forced into a life he doesn’t really want but… 73 Cows isn’t about the sad side, it’s about the changes he and his wife have been making. It’s a timely tale of organic farming and a perfect representation of the changing methodology of how we look after animals. It’ll resonate with a modern audience because of these changing connections and its messages of a positive move towards healthy eating and improving animal welfare. It’s Vegan friendly, shot in natural light and you can’t help but be heartened by a shot of cows running happily into a large field as this very different love story all comes together.

Bachelor, 38 – dir. Angela Clarke

This documentary short focus on the life of Bryan Robert Bale, a gay man who re-tells the story of his early days in the 1960s of coming out but not in the modern sense, because at that point homosexuality was still illegal and it could be genuinely dangerous to show your real ‘self’.  Whilst the camera focuses in on him, he tells stories of the secrets codes and clubs in Soho, London, his memories of loving the boy across the street when he was a kid and the discovery of the Sunday Times small ads, and how they’d change his life forever. I don’t want to spoil this one too much as it’s a delightful story and fascinating to listen to. Clarke’s doc is also one of the most poignant and bittersweet of the five nominated films, it’s subtly insightful and hits home with a beautiful, warm message from Bryan’s life-story… so far. I feel it’ll connect with anyone who’s ever loved and Bryan leaves you with reflective, important messages, whatever age you are. No dress rehearsal, this is our life.

The Blue Door – dir. Paul Taylor

The Blue Door is an absolute king of the slow build with an eventual conclusion that will stay in my mind forever, thanks to Taylor and his team for this horror short. Based around the premise of a home carer visiting an old lady, we see the carer arrive at a dusty and dirty house that also houses an elderly woman, sick in bed, alone and struggling to breathe. Our carer does what she can to help, tidy up and as she begins to remove dust sheets, she discovers a blue door that offers a creepy mystery to be revealed. It’s smartly filmed and uses evident sound-specific moments that juxtapose what we’re seeing on screen. From listening to the birds outside, to the heavy breathing of the old lady, its clear sound is important to the build-up of the narrative. They also employ some wonderful subtle practical effects, I assume, that slither into life to offer up an intense and shocking finale.

The Field –  dir. Sandhya Suri

Shot almost exclusively during sunset and sunrise, The Field takes us to India and follows Lalla (portrayed by Mia Maelzer), an agricultural labourer during events in her life that see her choose to live beyond her every day. Opening with Lalla and her family watching entertainers do tricks for money in their village, she decides she cannot watch and passes her child to her husband and walks off into a nearby cornfield. The angles for the tale are initially unknown but reveal slowly as we learn more about the woman inside through the leaves of a corn field in beautifully golden light. The only time the camera gets really close is when it reveals Lalla’s true desires, as she escapes from her normality in a sensitive, intimate moment. Suri’s film is a natural, melancholic and different insight into the lives of others with a restrained, exquisite performance by Maelzer and beautiful cinematography from Benoit Soler.

Wale – dir. Barnaby Blackburn

Set in London and launching with an opening blurry ‘drive by’ segment, showing us characters taking whatever they can get, including kids on bikes in a takeaway and a lad stealing a pizza from a delivery man, Wale is a super-impressive thriller that really hits home in both substance and originality. In Barnaby Blackburn’s short, we follow Wale (Raphel Famotibe), a young mobile mechanic who’s just out of the young offender’s institute, living at home with his Mum and trying to stay out of trouble. Sound-tracked with a sharp seething score, they pick up the vibes of urban London by using the sound of the city as he works the markets looking for trade. Wale’s luck seems to be on the up when he meets O’Brian (Jamie Sives) who says he can give him a job but, you see, things are about to change dramatically. With no spoilers, it’s a transformative performance from Famotibe as events shift and the film leads us through exciting twists alongside an exceptional tension into the unknown. Top class work.

All 8 BAFTA-nominated short films are available on from Friday: 

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One thought on “Reviews: EE BAFTA British Short Film nominations

  1. Pingback: Reviews: EE BAFTA British Short Animation nominations | critical popcorn

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