Directed by Joshua Kerr
Starring Kevin Finnigan, Patricia Jones, James Hunter, Melanie Howd, Tanya Young
Short Film Review by Jack Bottomley
Since Ricky Gervais’ TV comedy The Office and its American cousin, many office employees can sympathise with having troublesome workmates, suffering sheer boredom or encountering a fair share of odd bosses but what about a body in the bureau? Well, Joshua Kerr’s short film Notice, despite its title suggesting a film perhaps about the current climate of dismissal (ala giving notice), is actually a concise and engaging little story about how workplace pressures can cloud our outlooks and make us lose our ability to see what is right beneath our noses.
If you’ll allow me to insert a cheekily long quote into this review dear reader, Alfred Hitchcock once said of suspense, “Let’s suppose that there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, "Boom!" There is an explosion. The public is surprised, but prior to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no special consequence. Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there. The public is aware the bomb is going to explode at one o’clock and there is a clock in the decor. The public can see that it is a quarter to one. In these conditions, the same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene”. This very approach to filmmaking is practically typified by this brilliant short.
In the opening moments, Duncan (Kevin Finnigan) arrives at work early and clears a colleague’s computer of an important file, leaving a copy on his own memory stick. Then tragedy strikes and we are left to wonder what will happen next. I don’t want to reveal too much about the plot of this film as Kerr relishes using the above Hitchcockian ethos to well crafted, unpredictable and excellent effect. Made on a low budget, Notice uses everything it has at its disposal, from creaking swivel chairs to computer filled floor spaces to keep the audience invested all the way up until the finale.
Director of Photography Andrew Roughan uses the office image setting to create a beautifully confined, very standard and thus realistic backdrop for a short and sweet game of anticipation. Kerr enjoys toying with audience expectations and questions whether we ourselves would click where multiple onscreen characters do not. The early scene is crucial as it establishes the McGuffin and one particular moment practically sees a character touch the key to his salvation without realizing it. Mind you by the – some might say – melancholic – final shot, we see that the nature of the story is as much about gripping the viewer, as it is about questioning ego and competition in the workplace, showing how it all ultimately results in despair and solitude.
Adam Grigg does a sterling job with the music, which strikes the perfect tone to back the short’s snappy suspenseful storytelling. The dialogue is quite ordinary and that is to the films benefit really, as it further wraps the plot in a realistic overcoat, whereby this office and its workers could quite easily be one of many real ones out there and this – less than normal – day could easily happen in a real stressful workplace and has…as the idea is actually inspired by a real news piece Kerr read about a few years ago. Furthermore the performances add to this feeling, with some strong work by Patricia Jones as Anne, a shy colleague tentatively looking to make a connection with Duncan and by James Hunter as James, Duncan’s rival colleague who spends the film panicked and looking for his lost files.
Notice is overall a tense, entertaining and very well directed and acted short film that flips the “just another day at the office” cliché on its head and asks how much humanity can be allowed to take place in the workroom. In spite of misfortune or disagreement, that token dippy drinking bird desk toy will keep on bobbing and will we ever take a moment to raise our heads and take notice of what is really going on around us?
Watch the official movie trailer for Notice below…