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Pitiful Pilferers

average rating is 2 out of 5


Rob Jones


Posted on:

Mar 22, 2023

Film Reviews
Pitiful Pilferers
Directed by:
Jacob Stockton
Written by:
Gabriel Brown
Rosie Danagher, Harrison Emmonds

The history of British comedy is full of inept criminals as the butt of jokes, both small-time and big. From Fletcher in Porridge to Tyrone in Snatch, it’s something of a tradition at this point. It’s even something that’s crossed international waters into family films such as Puss in Boots The Last Wish and the Sing franchise. Pitiful Pilferers is a short which begins and ends with that joke as we meet a couple hiding from the police in some kind of alleyway, only to find that the shop robbery that they’d just committed probably wasn’t as worthwhile as it seemed. They aren’t professionals by any means, they’re just a couple of people who’ve fallen on hard times.


That’s perhaps where the joke begins to feel a bit off. It’s not fair to call it a mean-spirited film, but the motivations that we learn of are simply not being able to keep up with the cost of living. All they want to pay for are gifts for a child and an MOT on a van, and there’s a punchline about how one of them saves fivers, presumably because that’s all they can afford to save, so that’s what they were looking for in the robbery. There’s more sadness than there is humour in it all when you consider the conditions they must live under in order to be in this situation at all. Really, the joke only works when the criminal is a bit more detached from the hardships of reality.


Given that Pitiful Pilferers only shows one conversation, it tends to feel as if it’s doing its best to pack everything in. The dialogue can feel quite unnatural for the sake of giving us parts of the story that we need to understand what’s going on, when perhaps it would’ve benefited from a little more in the way of a narrative before and after. The jokes may have landed better if we were allowed to see the build-up to the robbery rather than just the aftermath.


In the same way that it feels like there could be more context beforehand, it also feels as if it’s missing a punchline at the end. The conversation is really just a few jokes one after the other, all variations of the same thing: Two characters need money, they’ve come up with a plan to steal some, and at every stage one of them has misunderstood the assignment and ultimately they’ve ended up with less because of it. It becomes a bit of a playlist rather than a complete story because of it, and it could really do with a thread that ties it all together in a more satisfying way.


Ultimately, Pitiful Pilferers is a one-note joke that just needs a bit more to live up to the comedy tradition that’s come before it.

About the Film Critic
Rob Jones
Rob Jones
Short Film
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