When Arthur needs rescuing only one person can come to his aid…
It quickly becomes obvious that this lovely short film, part of the Message in a Bottle series, is a fresh take on the legend of Arthur, something we’ve seen in recent times on TV in Merlin, and heard on the radio in The Once and Future King.
Unlike those versions, this is set on a modern, rundown council estate whose name, as with a number of the clues to what is going on, is shown in passing to the audience but not unnecessarily dwelt upon. A young girl, clearly new to the estate, is fantasising about a better life than the one she is experiencing. These fantasies, which recur throughout the film, are shot in the 300/Sin City style with only key colours seen against the monochrome. Ordinary objects take on a whole new resonance in the girl’s mind as her imagination takes over and something very simple can take on an epic feel.
As you’d expect, there’s danger to face, and a bumbling guard to outwit in the girl’s quest as she rises through the tower block to the lair of the creature that has captured Arthur. It would be unfair to reveal the twists that follow but scripter Andrew McCaldon has captured both the key elements of the fantasy genre and the boundless imagination of a child, which director Oliver Smyth has melded into a story that works on many levels.
Particular credit is due to the cast – Isabelle Allen is excellent as the girl, reminding me of Millie Brown’s performance in Intruders for the amount she’s able to communicate wordlessly, with Louise Jameson and Gareth Hale as the adults whose behaviour would make perfect sense to other adults, but which is easily… differently understood by the children.
The final shot suggests that Guin’s adventures are nowhere near an end – now they’ve got their queen (and their magician?), let’s see how Arthur and his “knights” find their round table?
Verdict: Hidden away in the early hours (5 a.m. original broadcast; 5.45 a.m. showing on January 8th), this is a little gem, and highly recommended. 9/10