…on the eve of the end of the world is what Tristan (Kingsman: The Secret Service‘s Theo Barklem-Biggs) find himself making when he receives an email announcing that an alien invasion is imminent and that the end of the world will in fact take place that very afternoon, the epicentre of the apocalypse on the London estate where he lives.
Armed with the camcorder with which he had anticipated recording the imminent birth of his first child, teenage Tristan instead begins taping his own immediate thoughts to be left to possible survivors, a stream of consciousness as he adjusts to his knowledge that there is no future, that any hopes and fears he had are now irrelevant, all that remains is a fast unwinding clock.
“I don’t know why they picked me,” he says, but he is convinced by the level of detail in the message, landing sites and map co-ordinates. Stepping outside to talk to his father, minding the cabbages he will never eat and which he doesn’t like anyway, there are already angry vortices forming in the clouds above.
A short film which debuted at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2014 and is now available online via We Are Colony who also recently distributed the more ambitious Captcha, Some Candid Observations… is very much that but little else which would mark it as something to be left to future generations.
Drawing from the school of humour which shows the awkwardness of characters notable only for their inept handling of their pedestrian lives, it is small in conception and small in execution. The characters are flat, the situation unbelievable (Tristan’s evidence is never seen by the viewer and while he may be convinced, he’s portrayed as a fairly simple creature who likely still clicks on Nigerian money laundering scams) and the sole laugh concerns the inexplicable mystery of drawn on eyebrows.
Drifting through the brief runtime as vacantly as he does through his life, Tristan has little to say for himself, the only genuine feeling when he says to his mother “you can do better than dad, you know,” that moment summing up the entirety of the film, as it is to be hoped that all involved in the production can also do better.
Written and directed by EastEnders and Holby City‘s John Howlett, the brief narrative having only two ways to go – either Tristan is right or he is wrong – when the punch comes it is a whimper rather than a bang, a soggy deflation of the balloon which leaves a feeling of “is that it?” akin to Tristan’s approach to life.
While the idea of seeing major events through the eyes of an ordinary person street who is unable to influence their outcome has potential (George Lucas felt the same when he adapted the peasant observers of Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress into R2-D2 and C-3PO), science fiction is a genre which embraces classic ideas when given a new twist, a bold idea to launch them in a new direction. Budget is not so essential as imagination, but here both are limited.