Directed by Neil Monaghan
Starring Robert Daws, Susan Penhaligon, Reanne Farley
Short Film Review by Jack Bottomley
In a world where Twitter has become the place of presidential address and where outrage can now stem from the fact that Kim Kardashian has opted for a gold frock over a red one, there is plenty of scope for stories about a very unfair system and how society has its priorities topsy turvey from time to time. An Unkind Word is one such story, a very stripped back, honest and internally annoyed work that reflects how many good people are made to be disillusioned by the political system and by the way of the world in general. That being said, don’t let this core theme put you off, as Neil Monaghan’s short film tackles some serious ideas but does so in an utterly charming and realistically human way.
The plot sees politician Tom Spurlock (Robert Daws) unexpectedly hitting headlines as he finds himself at the bottom of a poll for Britain’s sexiest politician, this spontaneous unrequested notoriety comes as way more of a distraction than it should, during an important debate about a subject close to Tom’s heart. At around 15 minutes in length, Monaghan really weaves a compelling drama that sees a decent man, dedicated to his constituents, being forced to confront the vacuousness of a media consumed by silliness and ignorant of issues they deem irrelevant or “not our problem”.
Almost recalling Armando Iannucci’s The Thick Of It with its realism and spot on production value, you really feel as though you are following a day in the life of a sole good politician struggling to make a difference due to the indifference of others. Benedict Edwards select scoring compliments Edwin Flay’s script nicely, as the story really shows us why more focus needs putting on subjects that are really important – and not just to our local area but the world – as opposed to the headline hitting frivolousness that unfortunately gets the most media traction.
This is a highly relevant and stirring piece of work that is not too heavy handed and feels relatable and quite motivational actually. Seeing Tom Spurlock fall afoul of the news thanks to this, frankly, silly poll feels unjust and furthermore seeing the effect it actually has on his own mind come the climax feels a touch shattering, as it shows how the focus, when misplaced, can really make it difficult for honest people to get on. A concluding interview with some self-loving trendy reporters in particular gets you thinking and maybe even fuming.
The cast are really good in their parts, though it is a showcase for Robert Daws, who gives the lead role an edge of passion and wit, as he excels in creating a likeable politician (no easy task nowadays!!). Also a welcoming presence is Susan Penhaligon, as Tom’s co-worker Caroline, who dismisses all the hoopla and simply carries on, urging Tom to do the same and Penhaligon is similarly a very warm and endearing character.
An Unkind Word is a short that handles things so impressively well, feeling likable, rootable and very contemporary, as it tackles subjects like filler news and how it distracts from real world issues and there is also a lovely stance against the destructive ivory trade. A very enjoyable, compelling and superbly made short feature.