Short Film - Old Windows

With the short film showing at Manchester Film Festival later this month, Steve Taylor-Bryant settled down with tea and cake to watch Old Windows...

Filmmaker Paul Holbrook is fairly local to me, coming from about 20 miles up the road and I always try and support local guys when I can; my own son is just finishing a film degree at university and will become I hope a local filmmaker that another critic or reviewer will want to support. Holbrook I remember from his previous short films Sunday Worship and Hollow especially [read Steve's review of Hollow here - Ed] as a guy who has interesting takes on everyday life. In most of his films there is an edge that maybe not everyone is familiar with and, whilst I have never sought the help of a vicar for revenge on the killer of a child, Hollow threw up characters that I still felt like I knew growing up on camps and estates as a younger man, and he mixes more well-known actors with relative newcomers or names not maybe in the public consciousness to get some startling and fantastic performances from them. Whilst Hollow is superb, it was a Holbrook project; with Old Windows, the heavy lifting of the script was done by the film’s star Laura Bayston, who plays half of a two-hander with the always value for money Larry Lamb.

Kerrie (Laura Bayston) runs a local café in 1990’s East End and is just cleaning up before closing when an elderly gentleman, Harry (Larry Lamb) surprises her. He sits at the table for a mug of tea and an Eccles cake, and a conversation ensues between the two before Harry leaves, forgetting his bag.

It sounds like quite a simple premise and on the surface it is. Larry Lamb sits at a table and talks about cake, West Ham football club, and asks about Bayston’s family but there is an underlying sense of dread that you feel throughout. Lamb has an air of menace about him. With his questions he could just be an old man looking for company but the way his eyes bore into you there is an uneasy feeling you get as a viewer. How can one man make a Victoria sponge story sound terrifying? Innocent gestures like the touching of a hand, or a casual conversation about family that could be a mundane choice to make a film about is superbly managed by a cast of two who are fully committed to the roles and by a director who unnerves with ease in his visual choices. There is obviously a little more to the story but, with the film getting a run at festivals, I don’t want to fill the page with spoilers. What I will say is that rarely am I so tense and worried when two people talk in a café. The script works, it is very solid writing that allows the performers to add layer upon layer to the tale and they both do. Bayston gets put through the ringer almost as much as the audience and Lamb makes a grandad character essentially a Kray twin. The camera movements and colour palette of the film are not just artistic choices, they are made with a storytelling purpose that just captures you as a viewer and doesn’t let you go until the end credits are done rolling.

If you only watch one short film this year, I suggest Old Windows which is quite the emotional journey, despite a dry Eccles cake.

Old Windows is part of Short Session 10 at Manchester Film Festival on 19th March. Find out more, and how to book tickets, here:

Image - Shunk Films
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