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Dinner Date (2020) Short film review


Directed by: #IsobellaHubbard

Written by: #RachaelJames


Half a woman's face looks out at you while out of focus lights flash in the background.
Dinner Date BFI Flare Poster

Dating in the modern world can be a terrifying proposition. Casually swiping through countless pictures and faces to find the person of your dreams, whilst only getting snippets of highly edited information about who they say they are, can seem daunting, especially when everybody else appears to be living their best lives. First approaches are made through a small screen in your hand and tentative love notes are sent through text and messenger servers, usually containing odes like 'send nudes' and 'dick pic to follow'. Everybody's presenting their best side to the camera and it's hard to see round all the angles of just who might be a good match for you. In fact, you may not even be talking to the person you think you are at all – Sally, 28, a nurse from Clacton may well be Bob, 52, a puppy farmer from Aldershot; and while catfishing is probably the most notable trapping of the modern dating scene we must also remember that breadcrumbing, ghosting and wokefishing are all a thing too.

So, Winnie (Niccy Lin) has decided to take a leap of faith and has agreed to meet her date Pip (Rachael James) at her place for a more traditional Dinner Date. Even in pre-covid times this would be seen to be a rookie mistake for anyone expecting to get out of there unscathed, but Winnie is a sassy modern woman and she's willing to take her chances. Right from the off though, things do not go as expected, and Winnie must endure the awkwardness of a bad first date as well as the primal advances of a female predator. Pip's motivations are alluded to in the dialogue, though startlingly briefly, and in the end it doesn't take long to see where this is all going – straight to cliché hell.

Unsurprisingly, the dinner date set-up is seen to be a rich vein to draw on for fledgling scriptwriters and film-makers. Everybody has their own take on the comedy or horror of the situation and each feel they have individual anecdotes to add which make their vision unique – Spoiler alert: They don't. A quick IMDB search produces results for no less than ten recent films or shorts with the Dinner Date title, the most notable in this instance being the 2015 short by Danny Cotton and the 2010 short by Paul Von Stoetzel, both of which have had the narrative flesh stripped from their bones by this 'new' version.

Sadly the clichés also run into the scripting, with dialogue that might have sounded good on the page, in another scenario, being delivered by characters who just can't seem to make the whole thing real. There are heavily stylised one-liners and cripplingly bad taunts that only ring hollow and a glut of dialogue that gets chewed around by strong accents only to be spat out like overdone ham. This is all topped off with a denouement cherry cliché that excludes any sort of repeat viewing.

This is all very disappointing as the film itself looks sumptuous and good enough to eat. Director of Photography, Barbra Van Shaik creates a stunning backdrop with glorious lighting effects and a deep, rich feel to the proceedings. Faces fade and pop from the darkness to fill and half-fill the frames while the ever present background stays elusively out of focus. The music too, by Phyllis Ho, puts us In The Mood For Love quite literally by embodying Wong Kar-Wai's romantic classic, especially during the opening sequence. All of this falls by the wayside though as the narrative takes hold and we are served a dish we have eaten a million times before, and which this time leaves us feeling empty.



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