* Contains spoilers * This film was presented as one six short films at the Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge (UK), under the umbrella The Joy of Six, by Soda Pictures and New British Cinema Quarterly.
Curiously enough, a 75-minute play of this name was directed by Stephen Frears in 1979 as an episode of Play for Today.
Be that as it may, because looking for the dates of these shorts has unearthed other exact or similar matches on IMDb, it adeptly explores the characters' assumptions and ours about what is happening, and it is often what we - or they - hear, or imagine that they hear.
We are straight into the film, with Alan Tripney's head seen sideways on a stained piece of wood, and the sounds, as he rouses, of a raised Scottish male voice from below. Tripney makes clear both that he is used to this, and that he despises the man.
We begin to make assumptions about who this man is, where Tripney is, and, eventually, what he is doing when he picks up the phone and - unusually enough - literally dials a number, from memory. (As to how long the number was, marks off for not paying attention, but I had thought him irritated enough to be ringing downstairs, although it was unlikely that he would know the number.)
In the meantime, we have been introduced to Peter Mullan, exercising his tyranny (and not seeing how it is received by Caroline Paterson) from a chair that bears a passing resemblance to the one in Tripney's room, and refusing a suggestion that he should watch The Queen, so we believe that we know where we are, for his cantankerous reign is conducted firmly, but not by shouting.
(There is, though, a feeling that Paterson just lets him think that his assured condescension rules the roost, and that asking him about the Christmas broadcast was done to irritate without him realizing.) Once he stirs himself to answer the phone, there is just about a conversation during which Tripney and he talk to each other, though it is clear that they have nothing to say, and that the one question that gets asked - why the son isn't there - would have been better not asked. And then these males have it all turned on their heads, and the stunned response that comes from them is, seemingly, their pride jolted too much for their ease.
I'd gladly see this again, this time to see how it builds to an end. All three principals are excellent, with Tripney seeming like a son who would have such a father, but the accolade must go to Mullan, for embodying him.
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