Awards & Festivals

Short Shorts Reviews

This weekend, the Savoy Cinema in Lenton has been playing host to the first ever Nottingham International Film Festival, showing feature films and a slew of varied shorts from around the world. Here are some quick-fire reviews of a series of short films shown on Saturday at the festival.

Mayday Relay


This short was unusual in the collection due to its apparent lack of action. The film focuses on building a sense of suspense with the minimal events we see on screen, depicting only two characters who receive a mayday call and their reactions. It chooses to keep the ship and its actual trouble hidden.

Although this resulted in a superficially monotonous short, it seriously attempted to create underlying tension by concealing the action off-screen. What became painfully apparent to the audience through the dialogue, and lack of action, was the vastness, silence, and incredible vulnerability of the empty ocean, as well as the futility of the main character’s efforts. The distances out at sea are huge, and it is clear from early on that they may not get there in time.


Mayday Relay took a risk, as it can be hard to sustain tension without action, but it unfortunately ended up as the least captivating of the five shorts.

Only Child


This short film set in a caravan tells the story of a couple’s relationship, with its early highs and devastating lows, particularly after they experience a tragic loss. The film manages to expertly explore how this experience begins to tear them apart, despite the condensed format of a short.

The most notable effect used in the film is implemented early on. The clever use of the camera circling the couple’s caravan, offering small glimpses into their life as time goes by, sets up the story brilliantly before diving into the central action of the short.


Only Child is an enjoyable short, which captures the audience’s interest and holds it throughout, up until the emotional resolution.



An excellent addition to the collection, Lifeline is set in a dystopian world where people are able to earn money to survive their abject poverty by fighting to the death.

The story centres on a mother, Beth, who decides to take part in this in order to earn enough money to look after her son. She ends up forming a shaky alliance with a young child named Livia, with heart-breaking results. This short is an intense and emotional ride, and is performed brilliantly by all the actors, especially ten-year-old Matilda Freeman, who plays Livia.

In a Q&A session after the screening, actor Vauxhall Jermaine said he enjoys short films that appear to make up part of a longer film, and that is certainly part of the reason Lifeline works so well – the uncertain parameters of the world where it occurs and the ambiguous ending that was discussed further in the Q&A.


Definitely one to watch if you like dystopias; director Sam Jones has created an intense short film that is perfectly shot and acted, and sticks in the mind of the audience long after they have left the cinema.



Billed as ‘a modern ghost story’, this mysterious short film follows a young woman named Louise as she moves into a small cabin by the sea for a period, seemingly to escape her normal life.

There is little explanation for Louise’s presence here, or for that of the strange figure she sees walking along the beach. Strange and supernatural events unfold, and the film’s intentionally disordered editing effectively adds to the audience’s sense of uncertainty.


With its dark ending raising more questions than it offers answers, Whisper is an intriguing short that can be interpreted in many different ways.

For Your Own Safety


The central character in For Your Own Safety begins as a relatively sympathetic figure, an airport security worker whose colleagues do not take the job particularly seriously. Although he is in fact the only one doing his job properly, he is disliked and penalised by his co-workers for his adherence to the rules, increasing the frustration of both himself and the audience.

However, after witnessing the private actions of one of his colleagues, and discovering something of an illegal nature, the security worker suspects foul play. The short ends in a dramatic and uncomfortable twist that plays heavily on current politics and real-world issues.


For an unusual, unsettling short drama that will make you think about how you view others and judge people’s characters, try For Your Own Safety.

Isobel Sheene

To read our interview with the organisers of the Nottingham International Film Festival click here

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Images courtesy of FilmFest Emden, IMdb, Andy Toovey, Sam Jones, Breakneck Films, Polyphem Filmproduktion

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