Writer: Paul Burton
Producer: Paul Burton
Cast: Gary Roberts, Emma-Jane Redman, Clare Hanson
Year of release: 2002
Reviewed from: UK theatrical screening
This little oddity was shown at Phoenix Arts in Leicester on 1st June 2003 along with four other shorts made over an 18-month period by local film-maker Paul Burton. This title stood out by being a supernatural romance whereas the other four were all fairly violent thrillers.
Philip Weston (Roberts) is the manager of a local cinema which has posters for The Two Towers, 8 Mile and Jackass: The Movie, although Weston prefers old black and white films and has programmed a mini-festival of movies starring Fiona Brent, a British actress who died in 1945.
Assistant manager Heather Keen (the incomparably cute Clare Hanson) has a crush on Weston but he only has eyes for the flickering black and white images of Fiona Brent. After a screening of 1943 Ealing classic With the Searchlights to Guide Us, Weston is astounded to find Fiona (Redman) in the auditorium - in the flesh, in colour even. On her instructions he drives out to the countryside where she meets him in an old church and explains to him about Heather and, after some initial hesitation, he decides that he probably loves her in return. Later, the two get together. The End.
The three leads are all good actors and form something of a rep company for the prolific director (Mark Jardine also features in the fake 1940s footage as Brent’s husband and co-star). Burton’s shot-on-video work is technically competent although it suffers from the usual low-budget problem on inadequate sound mixing. The biggest problem with this film, and indeed with the others shown with it, was the script, which is simplistic in the extreme. The terrific possibilities of this situation, which is basically Somewhere in Time meets The Purple Rose of Cairo, simply aren’t explored and there is plenty of room to do that, even in twenty minutes.
For the record, the other Paul Burton films shown as part of ‘The Big Screen Project’ were: The Country Murders (2003, 20m) in which a man (Roberts) brutally kills women; Run for the Shadows (2002, 25m) in which a man (Roberts), um, brutally kills women; The Passenger (2002, 7m) in which, for a change, a woman (Hanson) brutally kills a man (Roberts); and the most original of the batch, Watching Over You (2003, 25m), in which a nurse (Hanson) thinks she’s being stalked by Roberts but it turns out to be her lesbian colleague (Redman). All suffer the same problem of poor scripts, sometimes hampered by awful info-dump closing monologues, which rather detract from the obvious hard work and dedication of Burton and his cast and crew.
Burton was a prolific maker of programmes for a now defunct Leicester community TV channel and good luck to him. But one can’t help feeling that he should put more effort into the quality of his scripts and less into the quantity of his output.
MJS rating: B-
review originally posted before November 2004