Any occasion where we see the union of two talents like Sally Hawkins and Jim Broadbent is reason for celebration. Hawkins absolutely blew me away in “Blue Jasmine,” giving that film’s most un-affected, resolutely human performance, and dutifully managed to tread through the veritable sea of bad dialogue and questionable character motivation inherent in the script for Gareth Edwards’ not-entirely-terrible “Godzilla” reboot. Broadbent, meanwhile, is a man who needs no introduction. He’s one of our finest living actors, having lent his chameleonic quality to varying films like Terry Gilliam’s “Time Bandits,” Mike Leigh’s “Topsy-Turvy,” Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York,” and Edgar Wright’s “Hot Fuzz.” They are two of our most considerable working actors and in this new short film—an emotionally brutal piece of minimalist storytelling called “The Phone Call”—we get to see them square off against each other, even if Broadbent is only heard calling from an off-screen telephone line.
The short, directed by Mat Kirkby, was recently nominated for an Oscar in the Best Short Film category, and it’s not hard to see why. His film, which picked up a notice for Best Narrative Short at Tribeca and won both Special Audience Recognition and Youth Jury Awards at last year’s Aspen Shortsfest, is a knockout. Hawkins plays Heather—first seen reading at a bus stop as a mournful jazz score conjures feelings of grief and longing—a woman who works at a suicide hotline. She gets a call from Stanley (Broadbent), a man ravaged by the tragic loss of his wife and who is considering ending it all for good. The synopsis makes “The Phone Call” sound like a miserabilist dirge, but the film is filled with small, human moments that hum with the messy emotional implosions of real life. Considering what a spartan narrative this is—the majority of the action is confined to the call room, where Heather attempts to talk Stanley out of taking the fast track to an early grave—the film is remarkably affecting for what it doesn’t say. It’s a must-watch for any fans of these two actors and also for storytellers seeking to learn methods with which to create a narrative on its most basic and emotionally resonant terms.
Watch a clip from the 20-minute short and the full trailer below. [Indiewire]