Written and directed by Charlie Brades-Price, inside a small village church, Reverend Duncan struggles to connect with parishioner Mae, a fifty something bipolar sufferer who has been praying, loudly and passionately for the best part of the morning. She is quick, knows the bible inside out and is very angry about something. If only Reverend Duncan could figure out what? Starring: Al Roberts, Jenny Whiffen and Maria Rillstone.
It’s not a hugely common setting for short film but choosing a church undoubtedly makes a grand first impression as the film opens. It adds an immediate level of detail and opulence that enhances the atmosphere and adds an extra touch of weight to its story, even when it’s a comedy. Brades-Price’s directorial style has the slightest sharpness and a satisfying flow to it, it moves to suit the pace of the writing. The colour palette fits directly into what you think of with churches and parishioners, there’s a humble quality to it. The choice to open the film on a great wide shot inside the church with Mae (Whiffen) kneeling to pray then topping it with a modern jazz-esque song, shouldn’t work and yet its juxtaposition is oddly satisfying and it draws you in.
What pulls you in further is how it ramps up the speed of its dialogue becoming a head-to-head of bible references, backed up by some not too subtle passive aggression. The tone of it feels, firstly, extremely British and secondly akin to classic sit-coms, but it does so without feeling overly cheesy or put on. It manages to retain a more modern edge and though at times it does perhaps start to show where it’s trying a little too hard, it never becomes insincere. Part of that is because the story feels very earnest and relatable.
Al Roberts’s reverend feels like a very familiar character and yet he still manages to make it his own, with a typical exasperation balanced with generosity and compassion. Jenny Whiffen’s Mae has a bubbling energy to her, mixing her emotions with a need to keep moving, it has a slight touch of chaos but not enough to begin to feel like she’s entirely unpredictable. Though the intention and energy is influenced by the fact that the character is bipolar, it’s also extremely relatable and everyday to have one person who simply winds you up to no end. Maria Rillstone’s Katie adds a middle ground, she’s so casual and at ease, going along with her mother’s frustration and expertly handling her emotions in an effortless manner. Her performance has the slightest cheeky edge and she rounds out the trio perfectly.
Well-Meaning People is a very British, relatable, funny and well-paced short film. It touches upon the atmosphere of classic British sit-coms but also feels modern and sincere. Roberts, Whiffen and Rillstone provide a great trio, they each give very different performances and all have individual energies to add. It’s well directed, written and editing, you can occasionally see through the cracks of where it’s trying too hard but that is a hallmark of this style of comedy so it’s easily ignored. It strikes a familiar yet new note that’s satisfying to watch.