Sally Hawkins, Jim Broadbent, Edward Hogg
James Lucas and Mat Kirkby
If you find yourself ever wondering why a good number of British actors tend to be much better actors than their American counterparts, and I believe that to be true, you need only look at a film like Mat Kirkby's The Phone Call, a 20-minute short film starring Academy Award nominee Sally Hawkins as Heather, a shy young woman who works at a helpline call center who receives a phone call from a mystery man (Academy Award winner Jim Broadbent) and has no idea that the encounter will change her life forever.
There you have it.
One short film. Two critically acclaimed performers. Why? Who knows? Maybe they knew Kirby? Maybe they had a day off? Maybe Kirkby's secretly a millionaire who could simply afford them? Whatever the reason, it seems relatively common for British actors and actresses to devote themselves to the craft of acting whether that craft takes them into stage work, short films, theatrical releases, or any number of other outlets. I mean, sure, that happens here in the United States but not with near the frequency.
Winner of a slew of film festival awards including Best Narrative Short at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, the Silver Dragon for Best Fiction Short at the Krakow Film Festival, Audience Award for Best British Short at the Leeds International Film Festival, and a host of others, The Phone Call is driven by its two powerhouse performances from Hawkins, who is nothing short of stunning here, and Broadbent, whose vocal work alone far surpasses a good majority of the megaplex performances that I've seen over the past year.
Despite both being veterans of Mike Leigh films, Broadbent and Hawkins had never worked together before gathering for this film that was shot only a couple weeks after Hawkins wrapped up her work on Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine. I find myself sometimes having to remember what Hawkins actually looks like in real life, because she so completely absorbs herself into her characters that I frequently forget where Hawkins ends and the character begins. This is the case here as Hawkins completely embodies the soul of a young, shy woman whose presence becomes more and more mesmerizing and unforgettable as the story winds its way around. The same is true for Broadbent, though I suppose on a certain level he's given just a tad less to do than is Hawkins.
The film's production quality is terrific, though it will be interesting to see what kind of reception the film receives at Indy's Heartland Film Festival, a festival that has in the past been marked by positive and inspiring films yet has of late broadened the definition of what inspires and changes by including more and more films with edgier qualities about them.
Easily one of my favorite shorts from the 2014 Heartland Film Festival, The Phone Call is a deeply felt and emotionally unforgettable 20 minute short that will stay with you long after you've left the theater.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic