Alasdair Ferguson reviews some of the best Scottish short films available to watch online.
Jack & Sara (6.15s)
(Dir: David Penman)
Jack, a scruffy, unshaven middle-aged man wanders through a Glasgow park feeding birds. A young woman, Sara, sits on a bench, busily making plans on her mobile phone. Jack sits next to her and pulls out a pack of sandwiches. He slides one of the sandwiches over to Sara, asking her if she wants it. The young lady is clearly taken aback by this and goes on the offensive, saying she has no money, as clearly she reasons this is what he is looking for. Sara explains she is busy and reveals she wants to be an actress.
It turns out this dishevelled man who has sat down next to her may have the solution to her dreams of taking to the stage. Plot-wise, Jack and Sara is a pretty straightforward tale. The moral here is never judge a book by its cover. The two leads, Gray and Vance, give nicely understated performances, which perfectly suit the tone of the piece. You’ll probably guess the revelation before it arrives but that doesn’t detract from the story. It looks lovely too, with some gloriously bright colourful sunny shots in the park.
(Cast: John Gray, Kirsty Vance)
Watch Jack & Sara here: Jack & Sara – Short Film
Flesh and Blood (9.50s)
(Director – Emma Gilchrist)
Flesh and Blood opens with an impressive 90-second tracking shot which takes us up a flight of stairs in the close of a tenement into a chaotic flat where half-empty bottles of booze are scattered everywhere, alcoholic father Garret is unconscious over a kitchen table and his son Peter is asleep in bed. Peter’s phone buzzes, waking him and ending D.O.P. Connor Grant’s lovely tracking shot. The text on Peter’s phone ‘Welcome to the team! Your first package is ready for pickup’ is ominous. Our suspicions are confirmed when he drops off the package and the recipient grabs it, hands him a roll of banknotes and closes the door without saying a word.
What’s refreshing about the film is that director Emma Gilchrist never spoon-feeds the storyline to the viewer. It’s presumably drugs that Peter is delivering but we’re never really sure. The film builds towards the final scene where tensions between Peter and Garret explode with some strong performances from actors Aquilina and Plunkett. As Garret fries some meat, Peter sits at the table, his phone buzzing menacingly with texts from his new bosses demanding he responds. As the pair begin to tuck into their steaks it emerges neither one of them bought the meat. Instead Garret found them in Peter’s rucksack. The one he uses to carry his ‘packages’. As Peter stares down at the meat, the doorbell rings. Again the director leaves a lot of questions unanswered and the film is all the better for that, leaving the viewer to come to his or her own conclusions.
(Cast: Luke Aquilina, Ian Plunkett)
Watch Flesh and Blood here: Flesh and Blood
(Director by Gloria Lattanzi)
Willy is about to get married. His friends Jason, Andy and Brian decide to take him out on one of his last nights of ‘freedom’. Willy’s eyes have been covered with a necktie as he is brought into the venue his mates have chosen for the celebration. As the blindfold is removed Willy realises this is a very specialised club the foursome are going to be having dinner in. In front of him is a masked naked woman, lying motionless on a table, her body adorned in sushi. As the friends, already slightly drunk, sit down to eat Japanese food from their human table, Jason explains the rules. No speaking to…. and absolutely NO touching the ‘sushi lady’, or the ‘gorillas’ at the front door will ‘f*ck’ them up. As the four pals begin to knock back the saki, Brian has an idea. Why don’t they put up another couple of hundred quid between them and see if the lady will remove her mask. After all they paid for a naked lady and, well, with a mask on she’s not really naked.
The trope of a group of people gathered round a naked woman adorned in sushi has been done before, most notably in Kern Saxton’s Sushi Girl. What is more interesting in Lattanzi’s film is the drama is centred not around the nude lady but the tensions and bitterness between the four men. Each of them has achieved different levels of success in their careers. Financially, Brian is leagues ahead of the others with Andy – who still lives with his parents – admitting he envies his friend’s lavish lifestyle. Willy seems happy to be leaving the single life behind but it is Jason who clearly has an axe to grind. Barely hiding his bitterness at Brian’s success, he explodes in anger when Brian suggests they can have an actual naked woman in front of them by just spending some more money.
Lattanzi opts not to go for the obvious reveal in terms of the sushi lady but instead lets the simmering tensions between the four men take centre stage.
(Cast: Mark Delaney, John Rennie, Alastair Rennie, Harvey J. Perrie, Megan Fraser)
Watch Appetites here: Appetites – YouTube
Brown Blood (19.00s)
(Director by Brian Kidlaw)
It’s the eve of a make-or-break boxing match for amateur fighter Matthew and he is meeting with his coach. The coach is focused on the big fight, checking on the boxer’s weight and telling him to get a good night’s sleep. But Matthew is pre-occupied with his father, an addict who has been “clean for 22 days”. At the fight tomorrow, Matthew says his father is “going to be there, by my side.” The coach tells Matthew he must concentrate on the fight and not on his father. But Matthew says: “He’s not been 22 days clean, ever in my life.”
‘Brown blood’ is a gritty, urban tale about a young boxer from a dirt-poor background battling his opponents in the ring, while at home his father has his own even tougher fight against his addiction to drugs.
Thanks to some fine performances, particularly Jordon Walker in the lead role, all the characters are believable. The film is shot by Director of Photography Sam Love in a really grainy style, which really lends itself to the grim subject matter onscreen.
Brown Blood could easily do with losing a few minutes, at just a minute short of 20 minutes it slightly outstays its welcome. A scene near the end of two characters talking to each other lasts for about six minutes, too long for a film of this length.
But thanks to the performances and a believable script by director Kidlaw it’s well worth a watch.
(Cast: Jordon Walker, Martine O’Dowd, Robert McCahill, Karl J. Claridge, M. W. Denniston)
Watch Brown Blood here: Brian Kidlaw’s Brown Blood