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The Secret Life Of Tom Lightfoot short film review

★★★★

Written and directed by: Ray Jacobs

Starring: Graham Busby, Becky Keir


 

Tom, a young man with Down's Syndrome, looks out in profile above the film's title.
Film poster for The Secret Life Of Tom Lightfoot

Tom (Graham Busby) has something inside of him – something that is literally bursting to get out – but which he thinks he can't show to anyone else. Cutting a rather lonely figure, Tom goes to work every day at 'We Have The Answers', a call centre service much like Google or Ask Jeeves but for Gen X-ers, where people call up to get their questions answered and their problems solved. Tom's work colleagues seem to be very adept at finding the answers for other people and can put their finger quickly on how to make a decision or fix a problem. Tom however, is finding more and more that for him the answers aren't as forthcoming as they used to be.


Each day, when things get too much for him, Tom takes himself up to the roof of the building to get away from it all, and there something magical happens. That thing that's inside of him, that flutters and murmurs in his heart and makes him think that he's the only one who feels like this – he finally lets it out. What's in Tom's heart is beautiful and it flies and soars in the sky in throngs and waves, then he lets himself go too, as he dances and dances and dances with the sheer joy of it all.


Sandy (Becky Keir), Tom's colleague who sits at the next desk over, has noticed something though. She has become concerned at Tom's increasing self-isolation and decides to approach him at a work's night out. She finds him outside again, away from the others, and reveals to Tom that she knows his secret. Sandy asks Tom to meet her the next day on the roof of the work building and says that she will show him something too.


The Secret Life Of Tom Lightfoot then, is a magical tale about the things that we all keep inside of ourselves. In its short ten minute runtime it manages to delve deep into the pain, suffering and loneliness we can all feel when trying to keep something hidden from others, whilst also highlighting the pleasure, happiness and beauty that can come from its sharing and release. The story is told in a gentle and relaxed way, taking the time to fit the characters into their world and allowing them to come across in an honest and natural manner.


Director of photography, Jonathan Tritton does an excellent job of utilising the outside scenery and lighting to add a touch of magic to the visuals and when paired with the striking animation sequences they offer a real emotional tie to Tom's world. The folksy music also fits perfectly into the feel of the film adding another layer of old-timey magic to what is otherwise a very personal and human story.


It seems almost extraneous to mention then that Tom and several of his work colleagues are played by actors with Down's Syndrome. This has no real bearing on the story or how it is told but what it does do is add an extra depth to the characterisation and the strength of feeling Tom shares with the viewer. Writer/director Ray Jacobs uses his actors not as a talking point but as a way to embolden his themes and widen the understanding of his audience. When Tom/Busby opens his shirt and lets his feelings fly, we know there is so much else that goes with them that it's almost impossible not to relate and identify with what he's going through.


As a fun, feel-good film that fits a lot of emotion into just a small space, spending a short time with Tom Lightfoot is a sure-fire way of letting your heart soar.

 

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