Directed by: #JPGifford
A loving, yet absent father breaks down in the middle of the countryside on the way to visiting his young son and must walk the rest of the journey…whilst dressed as a fish.
The Smoking Fish (2021) is a short comedy/drama, directed by J. P. Gifford, who wrote the screenplay alongside award winning filmmaker Joseph Archer. Archer won the Festival Award for Best Director at the Genre Celebration Festival for his short drama On In 15 (2019). This short is set in the gorgeous Peak District and was produced by Window Zebra Productions in association with Lucas A. Ferrara.
The film is beautifully shot and captures the picturesque sunny vistas of the English countryside, with the memorable image of a man in a fish costume creating a striking contrast between what is recognisable and what is bizarre and out of place. He wears the costume with blatant nonchalance, making the comedy land perfectly when he does encounter problems and a humorous misunderstanding about his son’s apparent interest in fishing makes the film even better on a second viewing.
The screenplay is very charming and is executed well, surprisingly feeling very much grounded in a real family drama situation despite the strange circumstances Frank (Dickinson) finds himself in. It is both funny and touching to watch him attempt to navigate a tight gate whilst holding the fish costume, as well as fall into a field of sheep poo in his determination to reach his son. Frank even risks getting shot by an angry farmer Keith (Schaal) when he trespasses on his private land. This is a wonderful film which relies on the classic screenwriting technique of ‘show, don’t tell’, where a simple long shot of Frank walking through a hot field in a silly costume speaks volumes of his love and commitment to his children.
Everyone involved in the cast play their characters splendidly. Dickinson is the grounded everyman who is easy to relate to: the father who has made past mistakes, but a broken down car will never stop him from striding across the countryside in a fish costume to visit his son. Ransom is believable as his ex and the pessimistic, protective mother of their son, Nick (Jack Waddington), with Schaal having a nice quick cameo as the farmer who offers to give Frank a lift home.
The film also has a very effective original score by Jodie Grayer and Michael Boga, with a heart-warming song about one walking miles to reach someone they love, which symbolises the screenplay perfectly.
Sweet, charming and enduring – The Smoking Fish is a very good short, with a huge heart worn proudly on its sleeve and a lot of laughs. The film is gorgeous to look at, nicely acted and has a moving tale at its centre of a father just trying to spend some quality time with his son, what’s not to love?