BAFTA Best Short Film Nominees 2014

BAFTA are once again screening their collection of nominated short films as one feature-length package in UK cinemas. It’s a chance to see the best short films from some of the country’s brightest aspiring filmmakers on the big screen, making the whole endeavour worthwhile.

Sleeping With The Fishes

Sonja (voiced by writer Sarah Woolner) is a lonely, misfit fishmonger. She’s content with the companionship offered to her by the fish she eventually chops up and sells, that is until she meets the new delivery man, Bruce (voiced by Nikola Medic). The main appeal of Bruce to Sonja, it seems, is that he looks exactly like a rainbow trout.

Sleeping With The Fishes won the BAFTA for Best British Animated Short, and deservedly so. Its simple story and endearing animation prove a winning formula.

Island Queen

When 20-something Mim (Nat Luurtsema), who’s lived her entire life on a small island, decides it’s time for her to finally grow up, she comes to the conclusion that getting pregnant through sperm donation is the best way of doing so. What then unfolds is both disgusting and wonderfully implausible, and so not to spoil the surprise, I’ll say no more than that.

The performances are good across the board, with Sam Pamphilon and Sam Perry playing Mim’s best friend and brother respectively. All in all, Island Queen puts an interesting and, at times, disturbing twist on the romantic comedy.

Sea ViewSea-View-Side-reduced

We begin in a glass-structured bus station in what appears to be the north of England. Jess (Eloise Smyth) and Jason (Ciaran Griffiths) meet up for the first time in daylight and drive to an out-of-season seaside town; it’s clear that Jess’s hopes for the weekend don’t quite match up with Jason’s. Jane Linfoot’s Sea View is an exploration of a young woman’s curiosity and excitement at the beginning of a relationship with an older man, only for it all to turn very sour, very quickly.

Much of the film takes place within the suitably grim and grimy B&B room in which Jess and Jason spend the weekend – the room becomes a temporary prison as he seems completely unwilling to be seen outside with her. Dour and starkly realistic, Sea View would be my pick for best short.

Everything I Can See From Here

In a British post-industrial city, a game of football is brought to an end when the ball is kicked into the air and fails to come back down to Earth. A cube then descends from the grey clouds and out of it appears a strange-looking, blue-haired alien holding the ball – his ways of playing the beautiful game, however, are quite different to ours.

The aspect ratio of the film is similar to that of a smartphone; though the animation is well designed and the conceit interesting enough, it’s clearly a nominee rather than a winner.

Keeping Up With The Joneses

With a cast including Maxine Peake as MP’s wife Celia and Geoff Bell as Mick, one half of a tough-guy duo, Keeping Up With The Joneses is probably the most ambitious and well-cast short of all the nominees. Celia is forced to consider her life and marriage when Mick and Jerry take her hostage in the absence of her MP husband.

Peake is reliably excellent in her role, with the whole weight of the film resting on her shoulders. Celia and Mick form an unlikely alliance amid the chaos and personal wranglings of her kidnapping, while the trigger-happy Jerry (Adeel Akhtar) provides both the violence and the black comedy.

Orbit Ever After

Written and directed by Jamie Stone, Orbit Ever After is a coming-of-age story. Nigel (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) lives above the Earth’s atmosphere with his mother (Bronagh Gallagher), father (Mackenzie Crook) and Grandpa (Bob Goody). When he falls in love – from a distance – with a girl from another spaceship, he must betray the small-town mindsets of his parents and follow his heart.

Unfortunately, the elaborate production design and the relatively star-studded cast cannot remedy the scripting issues. The dialogue is overly melodramatic, never approaching how normal people or teenagers speak.

Room-8Room 8

James W Griffith’s Room 8 was the winner of the Best British Short Film BAFTA for 2014; the film takes place in an Eastern European Soviet-like prison, where a new prisoner (Tom Cullen) arrives and meets his cellmate (Michael Gould) for the first time. Once they are acquainted, the new prisoner discovers a trick which allows him to escape the cell – but he’s not the first to discover it.

Room 8 is a Kafkaesque story which must take some influence from Christopher Nolan’s 1997 short film, Doodlebug, which follows a similar path. Although not the best on the list, its clever concept and impressive graphics make its success understandable.

I Am Tom Moody

Mackenzie Crook makes his second appearance here, and his performance in I Am Tom Moody is the stronger of the two. The animation explores the nature of inhibition and self-doubt manifested in a struggling singer attempting to divorce his performances from his childhood traumas.

Tom’s troubles are looked at through both his current and childhood self (the childhood Tom is voiced by Crook’s son, Jude), delving into his subconscious and his past. The stop motion animation used works well and the turmoil of the character is both touching and ultimately charming.

BAFTA Shorts 2014 opens on 28 February 2014 at London’s ICA Cinema & selected cinemas nationwide.