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Make a short, get noticed!
jeremy corbett UK24 August 2005
This BAFTA-nominated comedy by Peter Chelsom is so good it needs a few words of praise on IMDb. I saw it at a short film production seminar in the mid-1990s, where it was introduced by the commissioning editor for '10x10', the BBC strand that financed the production and originally broadcast it.

The script fizzes with such originality that at first it occurs to you that it's an extended sketch with very high production values, but very quickly the character and pathos of the subject takes over, and you are drawn in to a world that has utterly vanished from England, the end-of-the-pier variety turn.

Affectingly shot in black and white, the film is set in Blackpool (Chelsom's hometown, and location of his later 'Funny Bones'), and follows the self-doubting grandson (Tomkinson, excellent) of a popular - but recently deceased - music hall entertainer, who has plans to follow him onto the stage. This summary is really all the story that there is; The joy of the film is that by great writing and nuanced acting alone, the characters all share the seedy world of stalled ambition and jaded weariness that exists between close-knit 'theatrical entertainers' and their families.

The title refers to a jokey double-entendre laden song that's energetically performed on-stage by Tomkinson in the finale. There is no better calling-card to the big boys than a compact, spare and utterly compelling movie about quirky people and real emotions, and this film has it in spades, so why is our movie business utterly obsessed with features?

If you're at all interested in making short films or just writing them, take a look at this short and witness how performance and script can be whole lot more dramatic and emotionally engaging than plot or action. Perhaps the only downside to note is that Chelsom, like Bruce Robinson, hasn't followed his amazing debut with a successful career and dazzling celebrity. Still, if he never exposes another frame, at least he made Treacle.
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Everything fizzes - see it if you can.
drslop9 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Treacle is a strange reincarnation of English music hall seen at times through the eyes of a small child and therefore exhilarating and scary at the same time and, much later, at a modern leisure venue.

My memory is that the character played by Stephen Tompkinson is actually the grandson of the (relatively) great music hall star and that his own father (the child) was horrified by the pier entertainments and became a music teacher. In the grandson, the raw ability to put a song across reemerges in a concert at a ghastly leisure centre filmed as if it were one of the nastier pits of hell.

And there is more - all in a very brisk 12 minutes or so.

Incidentally, I was surprised a the low votes this got from some people; perhaps the thumbs-downers might explain why they so hate this crackling little short.
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