Review: Affairs of the Art

Directed by Joanna Quinn, who also voices one of the characters, and written by Les Mills, fifty-nine-year-old factory worker Beryl is totally obsessed with drawing, and her fixation dominates the entire household. Apart from her husband, Ivor, Beryl’s model and muse, every member of the family is addicted to something. Starring: Menna Trussler, Brendan Charleson and Mali Ann Rees.

The absolutely wonderful thing about jumping into Affairs of the Art is its deception, it may seem all rosy and charming at first but it is terrifically weird and creepy. It starts out with its story of eccentric siblings and odd habits, bursting with personality and then slowly but surely delves into the world of red flags. It’s chaotic in the best of ways, it gives off an energy to its story that feels as though it’s thrown together even though it quite clearly follows a straight path. It blends a sweet, family atmosphere with something strange and a touch dark, which works perfectly with the relentless style to the animation. You genuinely hope that some of the family quirks aren’t pulled from experience because they’re a little worrying, but that’s what makes it so magnetic. It has a firm grasp on irony, it’s genuinely funny and it brilliantly establishes its very individual characters in an impressively short time frame.

Joanna Quinn’s direction pulsates with energy, the visual simply can’t sit still, the aesthetic is in your face, almost aggressively and yet it has a beautiful blunt honesty and affection. It’s undoubtedly full on, it’s purposefully messy and unruly, it’s all over the place to capture the buzzing energy coming off of its lead. It’s a very old-school style of animation which is lovely to watch, letting you more keenly see the drawing come to life versus the more layered modern animation. It’s colourful yet intensely scaled back, it captures the movements of its characters in a fascinating way. Their actions are overemphasised yet entirely relatable, showing typical everyday clumsiness.

Fans will more than likely recognise the voice of Beryl from Menna Trussler’s heart-winning performance in 2014’s Pride. Whether it’s the Welsh accent or the authentic and down to earth tone, it’s impossible not to be charmed by her voice and listening to her guide us through these tales of her family is hugely entertaining. Brendan Charleson is equally charming as Beryl’s devoted husband, as well as equally disturbing as their odd son. It’s a manic bunch who almost feel pulled out of a more adult Roald Dahl novel, they’re not your average family but where would the fun be in that.

Affairs of the Art is a wonderfully charming oddity, it’s such an unexpected delight which has plenty of surprises to throw at you. Its style is perfectly disarming to get the full force of its strange and creepy anecdotes. The animation is bursting at the seams, it feels as though it genuinely wants to jump out of the screen, with not just the characters but the entire visual constantly moving. It’s unique and yet there’s a humble, honest and relatable quality to its quirks.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯½ | 9/10

Nominated for Best Short Animation at the BAFTA awards & Best Short Film (Animated) at the Oscars 2022

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