41 short film screenings were featured over the Manchester International Film Festival weekend, Mathew Richardson of the Paper Mattress Film Company, runs through his thoughts on those shown in MANIFF’s sixth screening.
Sweet Maddie Stone
National Film and Television graduate Brady Hood makes an impressive award winning debut with Sweet Maddie Stone. 15-year-old confectionary tycoon Maddie Stone rules her schoolyard under the protection of her family name. But after discovering her notorious father has been arrested, she has to make his bail money or lose the yard. The more Maddie fights against her competition, the more her world spirals out of control–and the closer she becomes to turning out like her father and continuing the cycle of violence that runs in the family. The strongest aspect of this film is Maddie herself. She’s clearly wise for her age but her anger is ultimately her downfall, which furthers the film’s theme of fighting; from childish playground scuffles, her fight for survival to far more dangerous aspects in the climax.
Tryst in Paname
Tryst in Paname was the weakest narratively of Session 6. The glamourous ‘M’ believes her self-value is secured firmly to her beauty and happiness to the love of her man. When she is rejected and ends up alone in a hotel, M spends the night on a journey of self-discovery, to find she is all that she needed all along. The journey of self-discovery and a much healthier look on self-value and happiness came across as extremely convenient as all it took was getting hammered and a conversation with a neighbour in the hotel on the balcony to achieve this. This is another example of the film’s length being a hindrance to a narrative’s message.
Shoot Me Nicely
What I was fortunate to see was the UK Premiere of Shoot Me Nicely. Photographer Sean Wheeler (John Behlmann) is searching for a lucrative celebrity photo to launch his career. After being laid off from his dream job and losing his supermodel girlfriend his life has hit rock bottom plunging him into a downward spiral of odd jobs and celebrity chasing. A compromising photo of a politician’s seedy escapades quickly takes his life on a wild ride in his journey to return to the glitz and glam of the high-fashion world of New York. There were plenty of laughs to be had at the screening from the dialogue and the excellent performances from the main cast. I found myself enjoying it in the same manner as an episode of Californication or Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The protagonist Sean falls under the category of an unlikable protagonist that is sympathetic enough that you want him to overcome obstacles but still laugh at the misfortune he brings upon himself for his selfish actions. Linda Hamilton and William Sadler are also great in their supporting roles and get plenty of laughs from putting Sean in his place.
There was also the UK Premiere of Pebbles from director Jonathan Shaw. A woman named Ruby returns to the hotel where she spent her Honeymoon on her 50th Wedding Anniversary, awaiting her estranged Husband to honour a promise made on their wedding night. The film jumps back and forward from present to the past where Ruby sees flashbacks to her younger self in love. The slow pace of the film reflects the passing away of youth and romance. Marie Mullen gives an understated performance as Ruby. The hotel’s décor is unchanged from Ruby’s honeymoon visit, echoing the sense that Ruby is stuck in time and has come back looking for closure in order to continue with her life. When her husband finally arrives there is a weight of things not said, feelings not expressed, wrongs that will never be made right from their interactions. The film begins and ends with a small grey pebble Ruby picks up and eventually returns to the beach; the symbolic weight of heartbreak and loss she has carried with her finally being laid down ending the film with a moment of a hope.
The Interrogation of Olivia Donovan
The Interrogation of Olivia Donovan is a gripping psychological drama that works brilliantly as a pilot for a multi-part series, as mentioned by the crew at the screenings Q&A. Following the arrest of Bradley Donovan for the abduction of a young schoolgirl, DI Watkins and child psychologist Sarah Hardy set out to Donovan’s house in the hope of finding the missing victim. When they arrive, Donovan’s worried wife, Olivia, greets them. With Olivia’s state of mind in a very vulnerable place, Watkins and Sarah must use all their experience and tact to try to encourage Olivia to cooperate. However, what Watkins and Sarah do not realise is that Olivia has an agenda of her own. The cat and mouse game going on between Olivia and Sarah is incredibly immersive and tense, with revelations to the mystery of the girl’s disappearance being incredibly creative. The two female leads Eva Pope (Sarah) and Ellie Paskell (Olivia) give very realistic performances and have great chemistry with their opposing dynamics; Sarah being restrained and calm and Olivia with clearly conflicting emotions provide great tension. I wanted more after the film was finished and fortunately, there should be a mini part series coming up as mentioned by the crew during the screening’s Q&A.
We teamed up with Humanity Hallows to bring you complete coverage of the Manchester International Film Festival. You can view the full list of reviews which is being updated as we post new content here.