Review: Love at First Sight
Updated: Feb 15
A heart-warming love story starring John Hurt and Phyllida Law. Arthur (Hurt) is living a repetitive life in his nursing home until he spots Ruth (Law) from across the room. Immediately smitten, Arthur and Ruth embark on a day that will change them both.
One of the greatest gifts that short film can deliver is candid and sincere optimism. Award-winning director Michael Davies delivers on the promise of Julian Unthank’s script by crafting a genuinely heartfelt love story. Additionally, the film is given a huge boost by the irresistible likability of the late great John Hurt. Kicking the film off with an endearing gag in which Arthur vows that today is the day he cracks one hundred sit ups. We cut to Arthur on sit up ninety-nine…followed by sit up ninety-eight.
Hurt carries the light-hearted tone of the film, augmented by a playful score by Mark Russell and a bright and airy style of cinematography by DP Ian Salvage. The opening 2-3 minutes of the film go to great lengths to ingratiate Arthurs many quirks to the audience; a task made somewhat easier by his considerable charm. Meanwhile the setting of the film and Arthur’s friendly quip to an orderly announcing himself as “new” with Arthur responding that he is “not so new” highlights Arthur’s twilight years as being central to the themes of the story.
The buoyant aesthetic of the film subtly shifts into something more dreamlike as Ruth enters the frey. Her arrival heralds a paradigm shift for Arthur as we see him break free of what Unthank and Davies have established as a happy if routine existence. Arthur’s cool demeanour gives way to boyish adolescent nervousness, which only serves to endear him to us further. As the meet-cute begins in earnest, we are swept along on their whirlwind romance as we watch a couple who look like they have been together for years.
The slow revelation of their respective pasts underscores the film’s central themes of time and being at a stage of life where you instinctively look back instead of forward. These themes land with all the more impact in no small part due to the inch perfect performances of Hurt and Law. Earnest, authentic and vulnerable, both actors utilise their well-honed talents to project a blend of timidity and genuine affection. They cautiously explore an unspoken bond while slowly opening their lives, loves and losses to one another, approaching their encounter with a sensitivity that only actors of their calibre can deliver.
A sense of seizing the gift of life and time becomes central to the journeys of both Arthur and Ruth. They inject a shot of excitement and joy that is on full display as they get to know one another, defying the audience not to crack a warm smile as they watch. In amongst the warm-heartedness, the eagle-eyed are able to spot subtle ticks in the performances of key characters that suggest that there is more to what we are being shown. The suggestion is so subtle as to not override the love story being experienced, but not so lightly applied that we lose track of the sense of mystery that Davies weaves into the wider narrative.
Ultimately, we are given a healthy dose of positive storytelling. Michael Davies directs two jewels in the crown of British acting to great effect, encouraging us to embrace the earnestness of love as well as the value of a life well-lived. Where the temptation may exist to reflect some of the more emotionally jaded or tragic aspects of life, especially when faced with its seemingly imminent end, this film chooses to highlight the importance of grabbing and cherishing the life and time that is given to you. Simply put, this short film is joy given cinematic form.
Studio: Spellbound Films/Michael Davies Films | Year: 2010 | Genre: Drama/Romance | Duration: 12 Mins | Suitability: General
John Hurt, Phyllida Law, Ben Benson, Ailise O'Neil
Director: Michael Davies | Producer: Sandra Gorel | Writer: Julian Unthank
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