Directed by Richard Earl
Staring Nadia Cameron-Blakley, Denys Gaskill, Louis Mattey and Edward Scott
Short Film Review by Daniel Reason
Spring Clean is directed by Richard Earl, written by James Browning and is a short film that is based around the removal of a “plum tree”. Linda Smith, who is played by Nadia Cameron-Blakley, is persistently harassed by her neighbour, Delia, played by Denys Gaskill, as she wants Linda to cut down a plum tree in her garden, and it becomes quite clear that the harassment that she has received has affected her greatly.
Simply by reading that plot synopsis, it can be quite difficult to know what tone this film is supposed to be. This is, perhaps, the biggest issue with Spring Clean as at times it seems very serious, due to the music and directing of Earl, but in other moments it is quite comical, although this isn’t clear if it’s intentional comedy or not. There are some similarities in tone to Mary Harron’s black comedy American Psycho (2000), even the final shot of the film, which shows Linda pulling quite a sinister smile to the camera is similar, is something that we’d expect from Christian Bale’s character, Patrick Bateman, in that film. It is Marjane Satrapi’s 2014 film The Voices, however, where Spring Clean shares the most similarities. Both films feature a seemingly normal protagonist, but someone who is heavily influenced by the people around them, and both films are presented in a bright setting, with some comedic moments. Unlike The Voices, which does have a clear tone and direction, it is hard to know if this film means for certain moments to be comedic or not, and if it wants to be a dark thriller or black comedy.
Another factor of the film that causes some tonal issues is through the acting and dialogue, or way that it is delivered. While Cameron-Blakley’s performance is quite mysterious, and is able to show a clear range of emotion, the other two characters seem to be in another film genre entirely. Louis Mattey plays Raymond Jones, the son of Denys Gaskill’s character, who is a young boy scout that is eager to help Linda with the plum tree problem. His portrayal of the character is very happy and gullible, and his experience in acting, or lack thereof, is quite obvious. It is Denys Gaskill’scharacter, however, who provides the most questions about the tone of the film. She seems very over the top in her dialogue/movement and some of the line delivery is too fast, which doesn’t match with the serious elements of the film.
It is Spring Clean's very short run time that, despite it’s flaws, makes the film flow very well. It is edited well, by Stephane Tin, so the roughly 3 minutes 40 seconds go around incredibly quickly. It is because of this, that it allows you to watch the film multiple times and try to understand more about it. However, the clash of tones and some poor acting prevent the film from being as memorable as it could have been.