Written and Directed by Hannah Gautrey
Starring Clifford Hume, María García-Concha, Charles Timson, Donna Machela, Charlotte Dunnico, Lewis Cowan, Les Dowson, Milan Mitrovic, Chloe Hatherley
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
A police officer, a dentist, a beautician, a chef, and an engineer walk into a laundrette...sounds like the setup for a joke right? However, this is actually the premise for the exceedingly clever black comedy short film Brainwash from writer/director Hannah Gautrey; a bleak sci-fi story whereby punters can spin-cycle away their darkest memories.
Queuing outside an assuming door in an unremarkable alley, the aforementioned characters (along with a photographer who is later rejected) show the owner (Clifford Hume) their ID in order to gain entry to the row of washing machines which wait inside. From there things only get weirder.
Told with deadpan seriousness and hauntingly eery intrigue, Brainwash follows in the footsteps of an excellent dark comedy like The League of Gentlemen in delivering a quintessentially unsettling, British tone whilst remaining accessible. Gautrey eschews the risk of any clunky dialogue by having none, instead intelligently letting the audience catch up with the context of what they are seeing and the possible meaning, which to be honest [Spoiler start] remains pretty ambiguous by the film's climax. [Spoiler end]
Hume is an imposing on screen presence, perfectly capturing the immense power his character seems to hold whilst portraying the immense banality of his day-to-day duties. One sequence where he is napping is particularly humorous. The other performances are in tune with the comedy without overplaying their roles, although it would have been nice to have had more emotional connection with at least one of them - but, perhaps, that is the point. As with the best short films, there feels like a feature length foundation is here, which audiences would be delighted to see come to fruition.
Some spectacular visual flair can be witnessed in Brainwash, such as the view from outside the washing machines as they spin their inhabitants relentlessly, or a close up shot of the owner's rear end as he finishes his tasks. All this and more signpost a filmmaker who is a wonderful talent already and someone audiences should keep a keen eye on for the future.