Tuesday, September 02, 2008



Directed by Andrea Arnold, United Kingdom, 2003, approximately 26 minutes.

Source- Cinema 16: Short European Films. Call# DVD 4190

This short starts in medias res. Zoë, a poor single mother of four in Britain, is pounding her bare feet down a set of stairs while holding her baby son and dragging along her three unkempt daughters. She eventually gets outside the building and walks to a house. After knocking on the door, she promptly starts fighting with the woman who opened it, bringing the brawl to the small lawn in front of the house. As onlookers gawk, Zoë calls this woman a “bitch” and tells her to not touch her daughter ever again. The two yell some more at each other and the fights ends with the other woman making threats about “calling the social service” to have Zoë’s children taken away from her.

On the way home, Zoë meets an old love interest of hers, David. There is clearly something still between them as they talk and David invites Zoë out for a drink at a pub. Zoë lies about her children, telling David that they are not hers and promises to meet him at the pub later.

Unfortunately for Zoë, she is unable to get someone to baby sit for her night out and is forced to bring her children along with her. She leaves her children outside of the pub and buys her children some potato chips and a coke as their dinner. She then goes back inside to enjoy what must be her first night out in years. The night wears on and the attraction between David and Zoë intensifies, but the children are still outside and hungry. Eventually, the eldest daughter, Kelly, sees a man drop some spare ribs on the ground and brings them over to help feed them. The sauce from the spare ribs ends up covering the baby’s mouth, which attracts a wasp. The girls scream, bringing Zoë over. The wasp climbs in the mouth of the boy but luckily flies away without a sting. David then discovers the truth and takes everyone to eat at a Chinese place, and the short ends as the car drives away.

This film was particularly impressive because of how uncomfortable it makes the viewer feel. You get an extremely close view of these person’s lives which is accentuated by the camera work. It was filmed with a hand held camera and features many close ups, like the baby’s uncovered bottom and Zoë’s underwear (revealed by a skirt too short). The filmmaker also includes many other unflattering actions, like Zoë telling the girls to flick off the woman she was fighting. The intercutting of Zoë in the pub and the girls outside in particular highlight the dilemma she is in. The effect is that you really get a feel for how Zoë and her family live, for better or for worse. This is a short film that really benefits from being short because it intensifies the viewer’s experience of this woman’s everyday life while also not relying on some sort of gimmick as short films can sometime do.

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