8 Minutes Idle – Reviewed // Simon Duckett
Dir: Mark Simon Hewis
With: Tom Hughes
The first thing I have to do with this review is announce a big parochialism alert, for this is a ‘Bristol Film’. That is, a film where the city and the accent (sort of) feature on more than an accidental level. Having said that, this is a modern tale that could unfold in any British (or European come to that) city in this age of educated late twenty-somethings whose lives are stuck on pause.
Dan (Hughes, a kind of young, British Ben Affleck) and his cat are evicted from his suburban home by his irate mum when she discovers that he has granted entrance to his feckless gambler dad who promptly steals her winning lottery ticket. None of his mates are in a position to put him up so he secretly beds down, with cat, in his call centre work place. During the day he is team leader to a group of similar wage slaves who are ruled by office manager Alice (Lombard, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Lydia from Breaking Bad) whom Dan secretly has a masochistic crush on. Meanwhile, his team include Adrienne (Antonia Thomas), a part time DJ, and Teri (Lovibond) who has a secret crush on Dan. Whacky, slightly surreal adventures ensue as Dan fails to find accommodation, notice the overtures from Teri or avoid the icy honey trap that is Alice.
The film paints an interesting picture of a layer of people who, though bright and articulate, do not come from moneyed backgrounds and are therefore reliant on their own earning power to pay their way as best they can, condemned to dull, dispiriting jobs in, shopping mall surroundings with McDonald’s lunches, in order to do so. They are contrasted at various points with Teri’s housemates who are depicted as, to put it politely, a bunch of twats, allowing her to reside there cheaply as long as she does the cleaning and ‘a bit of gardening’, neatly explaining her big ensuite room in a posh part of town. (Unsurprisingly, they turn out to be medics and in a hospital scene late on one turns up on duty. “You can’t trust him!” says Dan to a nurse, “He’s a drunken pervert!” “Show me a doctor who isn’t” retorts the nurse.)
Unexpectedly, the story takes a darker turn as Dan is expected to carry out an unpleasant task on behalf of Alice, the fortunes of the company are at the mercy of uncertain financial times and the cat meets an unfortunate fate but there are plenty of throwaway laughs along the way. One of their number takes to clubbing in a Bristol Rovers shirt and there is very nearly a classic rendition of Soft Cell’s ‘Tainted Love’ at a forlorn karaoke night but the expectations created by this modern urban love story are taken care of, albeit with a few swerves along the way.
There are a few creaks as befits the micro budget (the film only just got to our screens thanks to a successful Kickstarter whip round after the distribution company went bust, such is the precarious world of emergent film making). It sags a bit in some of the extended indoor sequences and it sometimes has the feel of a feature length sitcom with ribald humour and an obligatory masturbation scene. The plot meanders a little, as if the writers are trying to decide which way to go with it and there is a brief, slightly uncomfortable, dive into ‘Brizzle’ but all of this could be sorted out with a bit more experience and a few more quid. Finally, huge credit has to be given to the cinematographer, Sarah Bartles-Smith, for making what outdoor sequences there are, count. She reminds us how beautiful the city can be. Even Broadmead.