Perhaps the most British thing put to film since Blackadder, Huntington Gardens is a quick-witted scathe of the modern UK middle class, attacking the ferocity with which they tackle mundane problems.
You’d think the gag of four middle aged idiots fighting over a car parking space might quickly wear thin. However, through a combination of razor-sharp writing, amusing, stereotyped performances, and a great filmic eye, Huntington Gardens is an enjoyably silly, low stakes affair that offers genuine belly laughs.
At just under ten minutes, the short is perfectly paced to deliver its simple plot without overstaying its welcome. While the conclusion is ultimately predictable, it’s still a satisfying resolution appropriately foreshadowed throughout. The jokes are nearly all winners too, with highlights coming from high tension exchanges between Putner, Ainsworth and Deu, who are ready to snap at a moment’s notice. The dialogue between these characters is fast paced and bursting with satire, with certain lines seemingly ripped verbatim from the headlines of a tabloid newspaper.
The insightful writing is complemented by a washed-out colour palette that exemplifies the pettiness of the suburban ‘war.’ The use of a more monochromatic colour scheme also adds a cutting realism, practically a trademark of the English sitcom. The tone is maintained throughout as directors Paul and Simon Wade carefully balance witty jokes alongside brutal commentary, holding a mirror to the inane squabbles of the average drone.
The witticisms of the script are brought to life by a strong cast that bring a distinct personality to each character, whilst maintaining a uniform stupidity. Only the children are a bit one note, but that’s also sort of the point. A Black Mirror level of satire sees them glued to their screens for almost the entirety of the run time. In a parodical twist, the adults are characterised in a more childish manner than their juvenile counterparts; a strong creative decision. The acting from all four adults conveys a stylised realism that could feasibly place them in our reality; however, they’d be an unbearable level of ‘extra.’
The neighbour’s descent into Lord of the Flies levels of conflict is ably assisted by a military soundtrack, amplifying the laughs by emphasising their soldierly determination. As the climax reaches its apex, with all four players going full ‘Basil Fawlty,’ the score, not dissimilar to a WWII propaganda track only propels the enjoyment of guffawing at these utter buffoons. Though sparingly used, the trumpets and military drums are employed to full effect, pushing the comedy even further and (perhaps unintentionally) symbolising that these people are living with a mindset of a different time.
The brilliant climax employs slow motion to fully explore the destruction, leading to hilarious close ups on facial expressions from the animated actors. This, combined with shots like the wine drinking Mrs. Morris contemplating through her prison-like window, or the ugly close ups reflecting the uglier personalities of Mr and Mrs. Rogers, match the clever script with just as clever camera work. Fun editing choices are also made, such as the quick cuts between the preparations for the voyage home, showing the shared plight for a parking space with a chuckle inducing vigour.
Overall, Huntington Gardens is a comedic gem. Short and sweet, it knows exactly what it wants to do and it tells its short, silly story to near perfection.
The script is well thought out, topical and pointedly satirical with a strong soundtrack that supports the tone. The theme of prejudice and pettiness is explored via the suburban ‘curtain twitchers,’ with all elements working in tandem. What is crafted is a witty caricature of middle-class Britain that is as funny as it is depressingly realistic.