Directed by: Robert Leckington
Written by: Robert Leckington, Joshua Nelson
Retail is an essential transformative experience for anyone who wants to see the reality of the world. Working in a shop allows you to come face-to-face with humans from all walks of life, each with their own specific foibles and eccentricities, their barcode of bafflement if you will. This movie critic had nearly a decade of experience working in supermarkets before finding the glory and riches of film journalism (I still can’t pay my mortgage), so I know where #filmmaker Robert Leckington is coming from with his short film (co-written with Joshua Nelson) 5 Minutes Alone.
At barely a 2-minute running time, this piece has pent up frustration all over it. Leckington plays the lead role of a very unhelpful store clerk, whose numerous objections to customers using his checkout range from the petty to the downright rude. As the queue keeps getting longer, we start to ponder whether this guy will explode before he manages to get his 5 Minutes Alone.
Coming from an authentic place, this short has a degree of believability and the downbeat nature of the retail staff is certainly going to convince many audience members who have ever experienced a trip to the supermarket where the customer service was less than 5-stars. Aside from that, there is not a huge amount to take from, or indeed enjoy, about Leckington’s movie. The audio is fairly terrible, the camerawork is not exactly daring, and the characters are far from nuanced. Perhaps I say this as someone who once spent many, many hours dreaming of putting my own retail experiences into a movie and all of the things I would hope to capture; from the banality of customer requests, to the rigid stupidity of head office policies, I feel that 5 Minutes Alone has opted for a quick self-checkout rather than a fully loaded family weekly shop.
That being said, I think Leckington showed some promise in front of the camera and perhaps a longer running time would have allowed for more depth and exploration of his obviously troubled character. The dialogue with Customer #1 (Sterling Smalley) was half decent and I would certainly have stuck around to see that escalate.
As locations for extreme hilarity, poignancy and action (see the marvelous supermarket scene in Hot Fuzz), retail spaces provide a marvelous place for human interaction at its most barking mad. Driven wild by consumerism or the pressures of modern life, either way there is a mine of conflict and tension there that 5 Minutes Alone sadly overlooks or eschews.