Updated: Nov 18, 2018
Directed by Jack Levy
Starring John Tueart, Helen Lewis, Jack Pybus, Roisin Mccosker, Steve Connolly, Charlie Fallows
Short Film Review by Jack Bottomley
Fandom is a curious thing, so often it is passionate, so often it is fun but every now and again a fanbase can fracture into something obsessive and truly distressing. Especially in today’s age of social media, we see pop star followings turning really quite nasty or loyal followers becoming a bit too “loyal” for their own good. Yes indeed fandom is a strange thing and it is a fine line that separates extreme followings from cult-like devotion. This notion is what lies in waiting like a malicious snake stalking its audience, within writer/director Jack Levy’s impressive short film Nick.
The film starts off relatively simple, with a set up that will be relatable to many a viewer, as couple John (John Tueart) and Rebecca (Helen Lewis) are waiting for two friends outside a venue. The stage poet they are going to see is highly spoken of by their friends but the two are unsure what to expect, however they soon find that this poetry evening is not what it seems. “They seem relatively normal” John says of the audience entering the venue as he and Rebecca are waiting for their friends to show, this simple line rings through your psyche once the film gets going and it does indeed get going!
The atmosphere is built expertly from an early stage and the film reminded me greatly of Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room, with the worn venue setting being an early indicator that this is no simple poetry recitation on stage, it is something altogether darker and dodgier. Like Gareth Evans’ “Safe Haven” segment in V/H/S/2, this film ramps up the intensity only to go a bit nuts in its final stretch and for a just over 10-minute feature, this film is unsettling, lingering and truly atmospheric, as a result of the intense and almost sweatily focused camerawork and Chris Walton’s eerie score composition. Like the aforementioned films, this delves into a cultist or mob mentality mindset, as it expresses its themes of control and the aura that an indoctrinator can exude and it all feels frighteningly relevant in our age of celebrity, Trump and viral stardom, why would a group not succumb to the ideologies of a false prophet if he was presented as your best friend?
The performances help anchor this idea, with the extras working in unison to blend scarily into the film’s unsettling backdrop and tone, however the lead performances are really impressive as they help this dark vibe work all the more. Both Tueart and Lewis feel natural and human, not nasty people, just a very understandable duo out of their comfort zone and seeing them forced into some dark mindsets by a brainwashed mass feels genuinely upsetting and both actors really express this, with the final twist especially coming like a hammer blow. Also a standout is Jack Pybus as the title character Nick, the man on stage who appears warm and innocent but comes to be far more than just a jovial chap in a hat.
Nick is a remarkably tense little watch and a very incredibly constructed film about timely and dark subjects. I hope to see more from Levy, as he is a skilled writer/director and his cast are brilliant here. Nick is well worth seeking out and don’t worry you will have a good time...or else!