It’s important that short films make the most of their short run time; we’ve all seen short films that should be longer – and to be fair, we’ve all seen features films that should’ve been shorts – but the best short films are the ones that not only entertain and engage in their run time, but also take advantage of their run time. And personally, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a short film use it’s run time as well as Screwball does.
Natalie (Savannah Baker) and Ryan (Alhaji Fofana) are two young teens about to make the important next step. Problem is, neither of them can even bring themselves to say the word; they’re excited, but nervous, and full of raw emotion as they attempt to make things more intimate, but the night doesn’t quite go as they expected.
I’ll come right out and say it: Screwball is flawless, and that’s even more impressive because it could have easily been bad in so many places. It could’ve been cheap and lazy, with no real heart or ambition, because stories like this are so easy to churn out, but this is something different. In 12 minutes, the film covers all bases, and takes it further than it even needed to go. The two young leads are exceptional; what they bring to these roles that’s 100% essential to this film is their innocence. This is of course a nerve wracking life experience that gets talked about so much in so many different, that it’s impossible to truly expect what’s going to happen. Fofano and Baker are at all times believable and genuine, as is the entire film which can be so hard to pull off.
Perhaps the most charming part of this film is it’s opening that sees our leads gearing themselves up for the night ahead; it throws us straight into what’s happening without any set up or exposition, just establishes it’s theme and it’s mood instantly, and from there, it’s hilarious. It’s impressive for a 12 minute film to have successful running jokes, but there’s two in particular that you can’t help but giggle at, and the film is just so fluid that it never lets up and you sink deep into this situation. Where this film truly deserves praise is it’s shift in the climax that changes the focus onto some larger, more impacting issues regarding gender and society, because with everything that came before it, it could have been so easy for this part to be very jarring. It could have come out of nowhere, and feel very shoehorned and convoluted, but there’s a very natural segue that doesn’t feel forced or set up. It carries into it perfectly, and this is important because without this section of the film, Screwball would just be a cute comedy that ultimately doesn’t go anywhere. Don’t get me wrong, everything that comes before it is wonderful, but had it not come to a head the way it did, it would’ve felt a little bit pointless. Luckily, the writing is outstanding, and it doesn’t fall into any traps nor does it ever lose sight of what it’s aiming for.
Screwball is a perfect short film; it achieves everything it sets out to do, uses it’s time to it’s absolute best and never lets up on the entertainment value or the important message it puts across.
Screwball plays at BFI London Film Festival
As part of the Gits and Shiggles programme!