Directed by: #EliseMartin
Film review by: Brian Penn
Many images flash thorough the mind as this inventive piece opens with a single camera meandering up the hallway of a non-descript house. We find Vera (Betty Denville) working her magic in the kitchen. She seems to be a glorious hybrid of Alice in Wonderland and Mary Poppins. Vera shares the house with a gang of spirits who jealously guard their relationship with the lady of the house. However, a storm is brewing as estate agent Fred (Ashton Spear) begins dating and inevitably falls in love with Vera. How will the spirits cope with this interloper who might end their cosy arrangement?
To stage a musical with original songs and a self-contained storyline seems far too big for the confines of a short film. But director Elise Martin pulls it off brilliantly with songs that are bright, tuneful and quirky. Dark humour occasionally creeps in to give it some much needed tongue-in-cheek value. The five leading characters have a fair share of screen time and their own solo spots; which is a remarkable feat within the available time frame. There are teasing clues as to the spirits’ history and their connection with Vera as the story delivers a smart sting in the tail. Dearly Departed borrows heavily from other genres with a particularly strong nod to classic Walt Disney. But in many ways this is the film’s greatest strength as it presents the viewer with easily understood scenarios.
If Elise Martin has a full stage musical in mind then I would very much like to see it. With the right casting, design and promotion this could be a massive hit. But with the performing arts hamstrung by Coronavirus this is one we can only imagine; like virtually everything else at the moment we are just waiting.