Written & Directed by Susannah Hunt
Narrated by Tamsin Heatley
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
A real nags to riches story in this charmingly funny short film, written and directed by Susannah Hunt, that combines delightful, poetic narration, with thematic pathos surrounding identity, and...of course...the titular Colin the Pantomime Horse, a fantastic on-screen presence.
Imagine if you were born into the completely wrong environment. For some people, this could mean they lack connection to their community on a social, economic or ethical level. Or that one's inherent sexuality or religious leanings are at odds with their peers, especially in more conservative areas where oppression might reign. For Colin, he was born as a Pantomime Horse in a farm, surrounded by your more "typical" horses and animals. Failing to ingratiate himself with farm life, and being cast out by his owner, Colin goes on an equestrian adventure of a lifetime which will show all the neigh-sayers that you can lead a Pantomime Horse to water, and instead of drinking he will become a thespian star. Apologies for all the Horse puns, but hay, why not.
Wonderfully narrated by Tamsin Heatley using rhyming lines of exposition, Hunt's film is thoughtfully crafted to maintain the gimmick, which is funny, without losing its pastiche appeal. The comic timing is intelligent, letting the jokes come naturally. The funny script is complemented by superb framing and cinematography from Oscar Ferguson, one sequence where Colin enters the city streets is excellently shot, letting the stark contrast of Colin's appearance against the urban sprawl do the talking for the audience. The pacing of the narrative is great, keeping the plot plodding along, allowing the journey to feel fleshed out without overstaying its welcome. It was also lovely to watch a short film which stuck the landing in the final third - which is so often a place where filmmakers struggle to bring their efforts to fruition.
Sometimes comedies are the best place to make poignant social commentary, especially ones where the premise may seem slightly ridiculous, as the audience isn't expecting to be particularly moved. Hunt proves herself more than capable of injecting some beautiful moments of pathos without bludgeoning the viewer by becoming preachy. Colin's struggle to find himself, and his place in the world, is a universal motif, as is the ultimate vindication he finds when locating a space to truly be himself. Colin the Pantomime Horse is a film, much like its central character, made up of two main parts: fantastic comedy and excellent filmmaking.