Directed by Ross McGowan and written by Andrew Heard, a story in rhyme that will give you a lift, when our sad, shallow man receives a strange gift. Starring: David Hepburn and Deborah Kearne.
It’s hard not to quickly think of Dr. Seuss and films like The Grinch or The Cat in the Hat as soon as a film starts with rhyming narration but it’s typically a sign of something playful and sweet. That’s pretty much exactly what you get with Byte but with a more sarcastic and parody twist. It has a quirky atmosphere while it explores a classic conundrum of the male double standard, desperate for love but unable to get past their cliched opinion of beauty. One of the surprising elements that Andrew Heard pulls off with this script is that it holds a genuine suspense. The entire tone is silly, tongue-in-cheek and mischievous but the progression is unexpectedly enticing.
Part of that charm comes from the great movement and fluidity to Ross McGowan’s direction. It has a big energy and embraces the mix of modern and fairytale to create something unusual yet familiar. All of that helps it build a solid pace, feeling fast while mostly just exploring an inner monologue. It also holds an interestingly relevant yet nostalgic feel, fluctuating between modern day and the era of Open All Hours and Only Fools and Horses. The only outlier is the score which feels too stereotypical, and as if it’s slightly forced upon the visual rather than matching the direction’s smoothly flowing quality.
The look and persona they give to David Hepburn’s character is another reason it harks back to British sitcoms, creating that hapless but hopeful personality. Hepburn nicely manages to keep him a likeable character, despite several traits working against that. Capturing the misguided sense of what he deserves and that any potential partner should look like a model, without making him out to actually be a bad guy. It’s not an easy thing to do, especially today when cliched make behaviours and old-fashioned thinking are highlighted much more keenly. It’s funny and silly but there’s a good foundation of heart beneath that to see him through.
Byte is a quirky mix of modern romance and fairytale, it’s playful and self-aware, basing itself in reality but colouring outside the lines. David Hepburn leads the film well with a good mix of real and parody, creating a flawed but likeable character. It’s shot very well to add a great deal of energy and personality, it’s short, sweet and entertaining.