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The Man At The Bottom Of The Garden (2021) Short Film Review


Directed by: #PaulBlinkhorn

Written by: #PaulBlinkhorn

Starring: #ClareCalbraith, #DeniseBlack, #PaulBradley


During lockdown, Jessica (Calbraith) regularly video chats her parents and is one day informed by her mum, Marji (Black), that her dad, Joe (Bradley), is isolating at the bottom of the garden with Covid-19 symptoms – but is all as it seems?

The Man At The Bottom Of The Garden (2021) is a YouTube short comedy, uploaded March 16th, 2021 and was filmed remotely. Director and writer Paul Blinkhorn originally wrote the snappy ten minute script as an entry to a BBC Writersroom competition in 2020, making the final fifty out of almost 7,000 submissions. Despite only 8 scripts being selected, Blinkhorn remained determined to make his film and he teamed up with award-wining producer Karen Newman of Hidden Door Productions to make a witty, truthful depiction of a family living through lockdown. In his own words, Paul spoke of the difficulties of the past couple of years in light of Covid: “our ambition has been to make a short that offers audiences some comic relief and a brief respite from the stresses and strains of lockdown living”.

A garden gnome peeks around a plant pot, sticking his middle finger up to the camera
The Man At The Bottom Of The Garden (2021) short film poster

The film has already received much attention and praise, becoming part of the Official Selection lists for many film festivals this year and winning four awards, including Best Drama at The Swindon Independent Film Festival and an Honourable Mention at the Lit Laughs International Film Festival. The short is bound to resonate with many viewers due to its realistic, honest depiction of a typical British family and the struggles we all experienced whilst living through lockdown in the UK.

The script is clever and witty, giving us a very good idea of the couple’s long marriage with little anecdotes sprinkled throughout, including a great story about Joe’s unfortunate encounter with a nest of fire ants in Jessica’s childhood sandpit in the back garden. The narrative is told entirely through the video chat format, a very familiar visual for many families who were separated during lockdown and we even learn that Joe has been stocking up to 72 toilet rolls (of course!). The film is very charming, yet it also includes poignant drama which excels the most during a final video chat where we discover Jess is in fact an overworked nurse, where we clearly see how much the video chats with her parents stabilise her after a very difficult, long day at work.

All three performances are excellent and exuberate a genuine sense of authenticity. It is impressive that both Denise Black and Paul Bradley never appear onscreen together and the quirks and falls of their marriage are communicated brilliantly by both talents. Clare Calbraith as Jess is also perfect, getting across an impending sense of apprehension and outrage at her parents’ bizarre antics, as well as touching empathy during the last video chat.

The Man At The Bottom Of The Garden is a funny, heartfelt depiction of lockdown living and acts as a truthful picture of a difficult time most of us are still recovering from. This short makes for a great watch with a nice combination of down to earth humour and bittersweet realism, bolstered by terrific performances and a strong script.


The Man At The Bottom Of The Garden (2021) Short Film:


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