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Fort Tom

average rating is 2 out of 5


Joe Beck


Posted on:

Nov 28, 2022

Film Reviews
Fort Tom
Directed by:
Arthur Johnson
Written by:
Arthur Johnson
Edgar Lithgow, Mark Harvey, Muireann Ní Raghallaigh

‘Fort Tom’ is a film which aims to be an endearing tale of childhood innocence, but is instead an immensely stupid and shallow story of neglectful parents. The child at the film’s centre is the kind of kid that would work in a Spielberg film, but is an otherwise dull centre point in the hands of another director, and lacks the invigorating energy of a charming supporting cast needed in such films.


The premise is simple - creative ten-year-old Tom (Edgar Lithgow) feels neglected by his ‘preoccupied’ parents and decides to fake his own kidnapping, complete with a ransom note, in order to feel their loving eyes. His dad, Frank (Mark Harvey), has won awards for his incredible talent of lifting weights with his ears, whilst his mum, Francine (Muireann Ní Raghallaigh), is a lawn bowl champion and has launched her own clothing line. They are supposed to be the bubbly supporting cast so vital to these sorts of films, however, neither manages to entertain, lacking heart and appearing absurd for absurdity’s sake.


Tom’s ploy to fake his kidnapping lacks a well-thought-out reason - all we know is that his parents are ‘preoccupied’, and have conveniently forgotten his birthday. Tom doesn’t even appear remotely frustrated when his dad brushes him off, and we aren’t given time to build up an understanding of Tom’s neglect before he undertakes his radical decision in an incredibly stupid way.


A ten-year-old deciding to run away from home is nothing novel to film, but rarely has it been done in such an insipid and infuriatingly brainless manner. Tom decides to run away, not out of town, or even to the woods, but to his family’s attic. Surely even a ten-year-old could not be so silly to believe such a plan would work. Nevertheless, it does work, and his parents, as well as the police, are too stupid to give the house a proper scan, and also to believe a hastily prepared ransom note. The parents’ stupidity in this case makes you wonder whether or not they’re actually so neglectful of Tom, or whether they’re just too dumb to realise that the child living in their house is their own.


Tom’s decision to frame his disappearance as a kidnapping is more alarming, especially when we see, to nobody’s surprise, the parents worried and forced to sell off their prized possessions to raise ransom money. Just his disappearance would have likely elicited the same reaction for his parents, whereas the results of the kidnapping draw out sympathies away from Tom and towards his parents - who are never quite presented as more than caricatures.


Though both Arthur Johnson’s directing and writing leaves a lot to be desired, child actor Edgar Lithgow’s performance gives the film a level of quality which is otherwise lacking. Lithgow’s performance is impressive, especially given what he has to work with, and ensures that Tom is, at the very least, more than a cardboard cutout.


‘Fort Tom’ is a childishly made film, reliant on its child actor for maturity, resulting in a brainlessly bland depiction of a neglected child, which fails to even achieve the sentimentality that it should so easily create. By the time ‘Fort Tom’ crumbles we aren’t surprised, its hollow foundations were evident very early on.

About the Film Critic
Joe Beck
Joe Beck
Short Film
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