Directed by Ashley Belgrave and Colm Field
Written by Colm Field
Starring Ru Gilfillan, Du'aine A. Samuels, Zoe Cunningham, Toyosi Adeniyi
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
Putting yourself out there on an online dating website can be a daunting prospect, especially if you start to ponder the potentially endless array of lunatics and weirdos who may be mixed in with your "matches". Colm Field's short film Utter Pricks of the Heart takes this idea and skews the perception of identity in the digital age and the fickle differences between who we are and who we say we are.
Co-directed by Field and Ashley Belgrave (who also provides the cinematography, which is effectively haphazard), Utter Pricks of the Heart is the name of a dating website, one which our main characters Toby (Ru Gilfillan and Du'aine A. Samuels) and Stephanie (Zoe Cunningham and Toyosi Adeniyi) are currently trawling for matches. One slightly unorthodox difference about their approach, however, is that they play merry hell with the site's filter system in order to make themselves appear completely different when they video chat - hence the need for two separate actors to play each character. What ensues when these two digital disguisers match each other is a tragic and comedic initial date reminiscent of most romantic first encounters.
It's a very topical story played out with fun and clever storytelling. Belgrave and Field maintain a breakneck pace throughout which perfectly complements the tone of the plot. An array of green screen effects, screen clicking, and website hopping are also used to cement the nature of the story for the audience, which kept everything feeling contained inside a computer monitor. As we learn more about the characters and the awkward ways they go about connecting with other people online, a deeper sense of shallowness emerges which could have been developed further. As it is, the piece feels more like a TV sketch.
The performances are decent, considering there were only two actual characters all four performers gave memorable and distinctive flourishes to their turns which added to the enjoyably chaotic nature of the film. Viewers aren't given enough time to really get to know the characters which is a shame and slightly unsatisfying, but is also, I guess, kind of the point!
Other films that have explored this genre have typically gone with more sinister affectations, especially if they start to weave in social media threads. Also a TV show like Black Mirror comes to mind for its combination of digital peril and black comedy/drama. A thorough comedy proves to be a nice angle to explore this from, though, as Utter Pricks of the Heart manages to capture not only the invasive threat that online dating poses, but also the silliness of how people go about it.