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average rating is 2 out of 5


Joe Beck


Posted on:

Mar 26, 2023

Film Reviews
Directed by:
Toby Kearton
Written by:
Toby Kearton, Jade Byrne
Jade Byrne, Charlotte Melia, Philip Hill-Pearson,

The issue with making a short film about a medical condition is that it is extremely difficult to make it seem as though it isn’t a public health broadcast or the kind of thing you’d see on Comic Relief or Children in Need. ‘Pricks’, though it is well-directed and stylistically shot, epitomises this issue, with it’s emphasis on spreading awareness and a message rather than story, which should be at the forefront of any film.


The medical condition ‘Pricks’ aims to raise awareness of is Type 1 Diabetes - a chronic condition whereby by the pancreas doesn’t make insulin, causing a raised blood sugar level. The protagonist, though she’s really more a figure to embody all those who suffer from the condition, is Jade (Jade Byrne). As a chronic condition, Jade is diagnosed as a child, and the film opens with this diagnosis, with a worried Jade asking her mum (Charlotte Melia) if she’s going to die - understandable, and wryly comic, when you realise how the word diabetes sounds. This is the film’s most intelligent line, combining humour with drama to subtly make you realise how heartbreaking it is that innocent young children are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes everyday.


Unfortunately, the script doesn’t maintain the same level of intelligence, instead becoming full of stock phrases about how Jade is a fighter and about how the whole world is against her - both, in some ways, true, yet we don’t need to be given such an on-the-nose reminder of this. We repeatedly see similar shots of Jade in a boxing ring, throwing the odd punch, echoing the message of the insipid voiceover. We understand that life is a continual fight for Jade, the perennial fighter, but we really don’t need to be reminded with a right hook every thirty seconds.


These ‘scenes’, though I am loathe to call them that given that they don’t progress the story in any way, are, however, well-directed. Toby Kearton, who also wrote the screenplay alongside Jade Byrne, gives the film a flare through his directing, which is about the only thing separating ‘Pricks’ from a Comic Relief short film to raise awareness. Kearton gives the film a stylistic edge, making the most of fluorescent lights and sharp editing in order to create a film which is, at times, visually beautiful.


Though Jade Byrne’s performance as the eponymous Jade is competent, and Kearton lens magnifies it, capturing both the fragility and fighting spirit etched onto every facial expression, this is undermined by the decision to have child Jade, voiceover the entire film. As she explains the metaphor of the airplane which the doctor used to try and explain her diagnosis, we see her knocked down by bullies at school, left out of PE classes, and struggling on dates. It adds to the sense that ‘Pricks’ is some appeal to raise awareness of the condition, even as Jade’s former bully, who as an adult is played by Philip Hill-Pearson, returns to her life, any sense of drama or story is undermined by a child’s voice speaking fighting talk in a plainly un-childish manner.


‘Pricks’ is hindered by its very nature from the outset, though its uninspired screenplay doesn’t help its case. That’s in spite of Toby Kearton’s impressive directing, which at least elevates it from being written off completely. Nevertheless, ‘Pricks’ underwhelms, not because its message isn’t a good one or because its heart isn’t it the right place, but because it fails to pursue a narrative that enhances its own good nature.

About the Film Critic
Joe Beck
Joe Beck
Short Film
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