“I’d like to get out of the dress first” – The Party (Short Film Review)

The BAFTAs are nearly upon us, so what better opportunity to review a BAFTA nominee, especially one which resides in an often overlooked category.

The short film nominees will often only be sought out by the cinephiles and critics, so it’s reasonable to argue that one of this year’s nominees, The Party, won’t get the recognition it deserves.

Set in Belfast during 1972, the 14-minute piece focuses on an intimate party. Lawrence (Niall McNamee), the host, has invited his man-on-the-run cousin Mickey (Anthony Boyle) along, and an evening of drinking, laughing and romance takes a tragic turn.

For a short film, director Andrea Harkin masterfully builds genuine intensity. When the party first starts and a hammering at the door drowns out the music, you share the same emotion as the characters on screen – fear. The opening scene of Mickey being escorted through the Belfast streets dressed in a wig and a girl’s dress quite obviously implies that Mickey is a wanted man, and given the time period, the thunderous knocking on the door is not the greatest of omens. You only allow yourself to catch your breath again once the door opens to reveal more friends arriving to join in the celebrations.

Whilst other directors may have opted to focus on the bloodshed and brutality of the time, Harkin instead channels our gaze on the intimate relationships between the friends and young lovers. When the tragedy does come, Harkin does not linger on it, instead using brief cuts and flashes to provide the audience with a hint of the horrors. This works perfectly, and we instead care more about the characters and their emotions in the aftermath. Films like ’71 and Bloody Sunday have shown us the tragedy of 1970s Ireland, so it’s more impactful to see a film focus on the social aspects of this period, and how people coped with the struggles they were surrounded with.

The Party certainly ranks amongst the best short films of the year, and it is definitely in good stead for a potential BAFTA win on Sunday evening.

Dir: Andrea Harkin

Scr: Conor MacNeil

Cast: Anthony Boyle, Nial McNamee, Eileen O’Higgins, Tara Cush, Chris Grant

Prd: Farah Abushwesha, Emmet Fleming

DOP: Piers McGrail

Country: Ireland

Year: 2016

Run Time: 14 mins

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