Written & Directed by Philip Stainsby
Starring Conor Lowson & Dennis Hewitt
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
Dystopian science fiction is rarely the go-to genre for short filmmakers, whose limitations in terms of budget and scope would render any detailed world-building fruitless. Only the bold may go, and boldly does Philip Stainsby go in this visually arresting short film Day of the People. With some large parallels to Stainsby’s indie film Rivalries, which also used a gorgeous urban landscape and a mysterious plot, the craftsmanship at hand here is undeniable, delivering one of the best short films this year.
Awakening into a seemingly deserted city, our protagonist (Conor Lowson), wanders the streets in the hope of finding fellow citizens and, subsequently, answers. His journey looks to be mostly futile though, finding only a lonely Pepsi can, until he spots a figure (Dennis Hewitt) evading him through the buildings.
From the outset, Stainsby’s cinematography is utterly stunning. Pitched somewhere between Blade Runner and I Am Legend, Day of the People easily has all of the trappings of a feature condensed into a taught ten minute running time. The mysterious plot is eaked out with a good pace, whilst the skeleton script delivers some really punchy moments which capitalise on the brilliant mood created by the short film. The atmosphere is then perfectly complemented by the original score from Renan Franzen, that seems like it was lifted straight out of the 80s, and works so well!
Lowson is compelling as the bewildered protagonist, adding pathos to the strange surroundings and being the perfect entryway for the audience. Very often with these types of films, such as the aforementioned I Am Legend, the weight of the narrative is placed singularly on the shoulders of one actor. And without the use of a cute dog, Lowson does really well to traverse the urban landscape whilst keeping the viewer attached to his situation without getting lost in the visuals.
One of the most striking aspects of Stainsby as a director is his framing choices. Day of the People is littered with fantastic shots utilising a range of angles, all of which contribute to the audience’s growing feelings of anxiety and intrigue. There was a particular low-angle shot of Lowson picking up a book, and then revealing him against the backdrop of this immense structure behind him towering into the sky which was simply sublime. It was slightly spoiled later on by a scene between Lowson and Hewitt on a typically British high street which seemed to immediately detract from the sumptuous world which had been built using these fantastic locations, however that scene was one of the most narratively driven and therefore the setting was less crucial.
Overall, this is a masterclass in short filmmaking; Day of the People is a fierce story told with breathtaking visuals that is unrelenting in its atmosphere and rock solid when it comes to gripping its audience.
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