Directed by Michael Beddoes
Starring Briony Redman, Richard Soames and Katharine Bennett-Fox
Short Film Review by Andrew Young
Garnering plenty of attention on the indie film festival circuit, Forget Me Not is a wonderful little slice of observational comedy. A light, slight riff on relationship tropes, it both pokes fun at its characters and allows some sympathy with them to develop. It asks searching questions about the way we conduct relationships, both common and uncommon, funny and serious. The filmmakers ask enough of these questions to make Forget Me Not more than just a passable comedy short.
Richard Soames plays Freddie, who is led into a café by Laura (writer-star Briony Redman) after taking a blow to the head. Insisting that he is okay, he thanks this kindly stranger for helping him out. However, Laura isn’t actually a stranger at all – she is Freddie’s girlfriend. A stumbling block to their relationship is that, following his accident, Freddie has no recollection of who she is, how they got to the café together, or indeed any of their five-month relationship. It is a nice premise, swiftly setting up amusing exchanges between Laura and Freddie as she quickly becomes irritated at how “conveniently” his amnesia erased the same months they had been going out. Freddie meanwhile struggles to piece together what has happened and seems rather bemused at having a (sort-of) new girlfriend. As time goes on, little details are revealed, keeping the simple set-up fresh and ensuring Freddie always be aggravated, charmed or befuddled.
The depth and curiosity of the short film comes when the implications of the forgotten relationship are considered. How differently would Freddie behave towards Laura, when the relationship is fresh for him, but tired for her? Most interestingly, however, Forget Me Not probes the issue of how much timing and circumstance affect a relationship. Would Freddie and Laura’s relationship go the same way if they met again for the first time, or would the stage they are at in their lives make it vastly different? The interesting complexity here is that while Laura is pondering these questions, Freddie is still trying to process what has happened to him.
Director Michael Beddoes keeps all of this a low-key affair, his unobtrusive direction a perfect fit for the dialogue-heavy and action-free material. Rarely using more than the same three camera angle to show the different perspectives of the conversation, Beddoes and cinematographer James Lafferty’s only visual trick is to blur the picture occasionally, putting everything in a softer focus. This effectively conveys Freddie’s disorientated state and, as we discover the details of the relationship as he does, appropriately puts us more in Freddie’s shoes than Laura’s. It is a particularly clever trick because of the softness and subtlety of it; there are much more visceral and attention-grabbing ways to convey the effects of Freddie’s accident, but the lightness of touch here suits the tone of the film much better.
Beddoes’ main job with a film like this is perhaps to work with his actors to get the most of the script. That is precisely why Forget Me Not succeeds, because of the strength of Redman’s script and the quality of her and Soames’ acting. He does a good job of showing the multiple emotions of Freddie’s situation without letting things get too heavy. Redman, meanwhile, has great fun playing off the irrational, psychotic woman trope, adding in an element of love-chasing desperation too. They both deliver the script’s many funny lines with an effective naturalness. Some of the jokes feel a little predictable and safe for a generally clever film, but Katherine Bennett-Fox’s delightful facial expressions make up for it in her small role as a waitress. This is a strong short, built on a strong script, so much of the credit must go to Redman. She plays off conventional gender roles, with the light tone ensuring that this feels like a knowing light mockery rather than a film that earnestly believes in these stereotypes. The couple’s bickering whilst Freddie is sitting there with a potentially harmful brain injury is a joke in itself. It’s tongue-in-cheek and it’s funny, much like the film in general.