Updated: Mar 1
Directed by: Benjamin Bowles
Written by: Benjamin Bowles
Starring: Charlie Morel, Jon Cassell, Heather Robbins, Philip Bedwell
Film Review by: John McKeown
Harold Wilson famously said that a week is a long time in politics, and eight minutes can be a long time in film, if you do it right. Writer/director/producer Benjamin Bowles definitely does in this catchily paced short, which, with just four actors and a minor domestic accident, offers a humorous abstract of everyday life in contemporary Britain.
The accident is something we’ve all done, but in reverse: Mike (Charlie Morel) has locked himself inside the porch of his house, in his dressing gown, with a date with an on-line friend pending that evening. Of course, he has his mobile with him and is able to call his house-mate and the local locksmith for help. But - some - housemates being what they are, things aren’t so simple and Mike is in a real jamb (can’t resist this door-related pun). Though some relief is at hand in the form of Rebecca (Heather Robbins) a local girl who, on her way to work, is diverted into the role of rescue worker by the sound of Mike’s muffled, but unmistakable swearing.
Gavin Hardy’s camera creates a fly-on-the-wall intimacy with this damoiseau-in-distress. We’re so close to him in the narrow porch of the terraced house, between the inner and street door with its frosted glass, that we can count the bristles on his unshaven cheeks. It’s a bright day, with plenty of light coming in, but the feel of confinement in the white woodchip wallpapered space is palpable. Also palpable is the thinly masked venom with which Jay (Jon Cassell), best friend and housemate, reacts to the initial news of Mike’s date, and, later, in the way he answers Mike’s mobile call for help. There’s often a streak of malevolence in male friendship, taking, in its British form, a cunning, aggressive playfulness which Bowls’ script and Cassell’s performance trenchantly amplifies.
The chatty, bumbling local locksmith (Philip Bedwell) counterpoints Jay’s calculatedly juvenile behaviour, more concerned with getting Mike’s details down correctly on his ‘temperamental computer’ than actually getting him out of the porch as quickly as possible. He also helps make a point that perhaps can’t be made too often: how much our daily lives are held to ransom by technology. Mike only has seconds left before his phone battery fails, the afternoon is already well-advanced and his much-anticipated date is drawing closer.
But at least Mike gets to exercise his charm on Rebecca in their interaction through the porch’s frosted glass and letter-box. Which leaves us in no doubt that this is a quintessentially nice guy, patient, polite and long-suffering, his entrapment in the porch symbolic of what might be the more serious entrapment in his relationship with Jay.
Rebecca’s sympathetic, considerate response to Mike’s plight is a soothing contrast with Jay’s off-handedly obnoxious behaviour. If there’s a message in The Porch it’s a dual one: know who your friends are and, sometimes, a chance mishap can change things significantly. Things we all know, in theory, but Bowles’ film is a neat, nicely-balanced, very satisfying illustration of how they work in practise.