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average rating is 4 out of 5


Patrick Foley


Posted on:

Jul 9, 2024

Film Reviews
Directed by:
James Cleave
Written by:
Tom Ward-Thomas
Lottie Tolhurst, Martin Ball, Fabrizio Tullio

Family game nights usually consist of 3 things: awkwardness, multiple and increasingly frustrated explanations of rules, and of course the inevitable blazing row when old frustrations are unearthed by game-related controversies. Mafia is a short comedy drama that brilliantly uses the premise to show a family with some serious secrets falling apart over itself – as part of a game that puts deception at its heart.


A family’s game night turns to the game of Mafia, a game wherein players draw cards to determine if they are ‘Mafia’ members – and then can eliminate other players during rounds in the game where their eyes are closed. The other players must uncover the killers to win. It’s not long until clashes between the older generation such as mother Cynthia (Rosalind Adler) and the younger such as Ralph (Tom Ward-Thomas), Patch (Samuel Lawrence) and Emily (Cheska Hill-Wood) start to intermingle with the games’ deceptive ethos, as family trauma, relationship revelations and more overtake the evening.


Mafia is an amusing and engaging ensemble short that keeps audiences on their toes with its insight into modern relationships and family dynamics, exploring a multitude of unusual situations around its dinner table. It jovially examines how younger and older generations take views on relationships and sexuality, tradition and modernity and generational trauma to draw lines between different members of its cast – whilst maintaining a light humour and a belief that bridges can be built despite differences.


At the heart of the film is the titular card game, which serves as the driving force of the story. It works as a great send-up of the game, and the relatable scenario where something designed to entertain results in World War 3. There are certain moments which stretch credibility, such as a characters’ referencing to a picture on a website that threatens to reveal their own secret – and feels a little too convenient and designed to advance the plot. But the dialogue itself is authentic, and each character’s voice feels defined and unique.


The cast themselves do a great job as well in delivering convincing performances that differentiate each member of the family. Rosalind Adler gives a fine turn as mother Cynthia – the long-suffering matriarch whose relationship with the children’s father is referenced numerous times, clearly explaining why many of the kids carry the weight they do. Her conservative values clearly clash with the lifestyles of her children, who are determinedly finding their own path in their own relationships. Cheska Hill-Wood’s Emily is seemingly the most cognisant of their fact, and her growing impatience impressively comes through the performance.


Mafia is more likely to convince you to seek family therapy that play the card game – but James Cleave’s short is definitely a film any member of the family will enjoy. Maybe just don’t watch it all at the same time…

Watch our indie film review of Mafia on our YouTube Channel - Click Here.

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