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Hard Shells Don't Crack?

average rating is 3 out of 5


Patrick Foley


Posted on:

Oct 12, 2023

Film Reviews
Hard Shells Don't Crack?
Directed by:
Richard Mcafee
Written by:
Richard Mcafee
Richard Mcafee, Naz Akther

When we look back at lockdown 3 years on, most people tend to remember the mad parts – people being shamed for sitting too close to each other on a beach or in a park, washing our weekly shop, zoom quizzes – and how ridiculous we all now feel that Boris was throwing weekly raves in number 10 all along. No Hard Shells Crack? – a short produced during that tumultuous time, is a reminder that the reasons for our community isolation were very real, and failure to abide with the rules risked real stress on the NHS.


In a darkened and foreboding room, a man (Richard Mcafee) is tormented by the presence of his partner’s hard-shelled suitcase. As the case begins to shake uncontrollably, an incessant and disturbing rattle fills the room. The man cannot fight the temptation to open the case and see what is contained inside.


No Hard Shells Crack? purportedly symbolises the British public’s inability to comply with Covid-19 guidelines during the 2020 lockdown, and the subsequent strain placed on the NHS as a result of this. This is symbolised in the film by a rattling, possessed and overused suitcase – brought into a man’s home and quickly becoming a distraction through unbearable rattling and shaking that demands the man’s attention. Struggling with isolation and surrounded by darkness, the man opens the suitcase despite the obvious warnings and is met by a terrifying occupant.


Covid and lockdown itself is only briefly hinted at, but a critical view of the man’s inability to fight temptation is evident. His clear isolation and struggle is also portrayed through impressive and affecting lighting – which conjures memories of the time when days seemed to blur into one. However, without pre-existing knowledge of the context, it would not be particularly evident to the viewer that the film is relating to lockdown. Beyond disapproval of the protagonist’s disregard of warning in the face of temptation, the film does not really have anything particularly clear or relevant to say about lockdown-breakers. It’s unfortunate for the film in retrospect that breaches were occurring within the seats of power during its setting – as a lack of commentary on this integral hypocritical detail robs it of some of the emotional power the film would have had in 2020.


The film’s sound design is outstanding – audiences will want to jump into their screens to open the case themselves such is the agonising clattering they are subjected to. Add in further stimulants like the classic boiling kettle, ticking clock, and masticating of the man’s partner (Naz Akther), and you have a symphony of stress induction that brilliantly realises the rising pressure of the man to give in to temptation.


Opaqueness may have been an intentional choice for Hard Shells Don’t Crack, but a little more clarity within its storytelling would have been a benefit for this short. Impressive production makes this still well worth checking out, and the experimental film design resulting from the pandemic and lockdowns is still intriguing to this day.

About the Film Critic
Patrick Foley
Patrick Foley
Digital / DVD Release, Short Film
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