Alice Barry, Deana Heaton, Jean Rogers, Sophie Shad, Danny Thornton
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
"Valentine's Day" Finds Success on Festival Circuit
Loosely based upon his time working at his parents' residential home for the elderly when he was a teenager, writer/director Chris Murdoch's 17-minute short film Valentine's Day has also helped the up-and-coming filmmaker wrap up his Masters in Digital Film and Television Production at the University of York where the film is reported to have received the department's highest grade ever awarded.
While I'm not quite willing to give Valentine's Day The Independent Critic's highest grade, the film is a rather remarkable film when you consider that Murdoch was still considered a student filmmaker when he finished the project. The film follows Julie (Deana Heaton), an overworked and underappreciated direct care worker who believes that marriage is the golden ticket to happiness. Unfortunately for Julie, she's stuck with the narcissistic Jim (Danny Thornton) as a boyfriend and that's not exactly a promising thing with Valentine's Day arriving once again. Determined to just keep her head down and get through the day, those around her have other plans as younger co-worker Tracy (Sophie Shad) seems intent on sabotaging her every chance she gets and Angie (Jean Rogers), a grand matriarch with a gleam in her eyes, clearly has some sort of score to settle.
More quietly funny than laugh out loud, Valentine's Day is a warm, richly human film that finds its laughs in familiar human experiences planted believably within this rather quirky little care center. The film's ensemble cast is uniformly strong, Deana Heaton instantly projecting Julie as the kind of woman you secretly root for as she goes toe-to-toe with the likes of the flirtatious and smarmy Tracy, played by Sophie Shad as a young woman who thinks she's all that but quickly finds out she may very well have met her match.
I've always sort of had an attitude about these types of films because they so often forget about the human element of their story, but such is not the case with Valentine's Day, a film that remembers that amidst all of Julie's inner turmoil she's a caregiver who should be giving care and actually does in the course of the film. It's a refreshingly honest, emotionally accessible element that makes us cheer a little bit louder as the film plays out.
Already picked up as an official selection at the Smalls Film Festival and Southampton International Film Festival, Valentine's Day is an endearing, funny short that should have no problem finding a home on the festival circuit while serving notice that Murdoch is an upcoming writer and director we'll be hearing from again.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic