The Christmas Party
UK (2014) Dir. Dominic Ryan
Once again we take a slight detour from the usual film reviews to take a look at a short film from an up and coming independent British talent. The Christmas Party is the second short film from actor-writer-producer-director Dominic Ryan, who barely seems to have a moment to stay still as he always has one or more projects on the go.
In a complete change of pace from his previous film, the tense kidnap drama Stockholm, Ryan stars as Wayne, one of the few people who bothered to turn up to his firm’s annual Christmas party. With a budget that barely seems to have stretched to double figures, party organiser Sean (Martin John King) valiantly tries to get everyone into the festive spirit with his meagre food spread, paper decorations (on loan from his mum) and Happy Birthday balloons!
Elsewhere IT guys Rich (Cliff Chapman) and Paul (Edward Way) lament their lack of love life while admiring the vivacious but untouchable Claire (Genevieve Sibayan) from afar. Meanwhile Darren (James Naylor) is more interested in posting selfies on Facebook with his foxy girlfriend Joanne (Rosalyn Mitchell) rather than actually partying with her; and shy Cassandra (Cat Van Dort) has a secret she wants to keep quiet which everyone knows anyway! And spare a thought for poor Joe (Pete Glover) who was made redundant the week before and Dave (Robert Walters), whose annual Christmas curry comes back to haunt him with vengeance for a third year in a row.
With a run time of just under thirteen minutes, Dominic Ryan has managed to cram an evening’s worth of miserable and awkward party experiences which will no doubt be painfully recognisable to some, into a well paced narrative, complete with some amusing running gags. I don’t know if this was serendipity or not but this film shows that a low budget can actually play into the story, creating the right atmosphere and visual moods to compliment the script. I refer to the plain and rather vast underground room in which this festive gathering takes place, which instead of being a hive of activity is a woefully ill-attended black hole of excitement, the bare white walls and sparse decorations doing little to disguise this fact.
Despite this poor turn out there are plenty of characters whose journey we follow over the course of this disastrous evening. The tropes may be a little familiar (eg: the IT guys are loveless nerds, etc) but this isn’t an issue since this is designed to be a brief but broad sketch of the usual office personnel anyway, so this gives us a quick way to establish the characters in the time allowed. And Ryan’s script has given them enough of their own personalities to avoid being complete clichés, with a suggestion he might actually be lampooning such easy stereotypes rather than relying upon them.
The cast are an earnest bunch of young actors who clearly are keen to make the most of any role they are given and immerse themselves into their characters here. This is definitely an ensemble piece, if you will, with everyone bouncing off everyone else, although the only person who seems to outside of this is Sean, the party organiser, who zips around trying to fulfil his duty all the while resigned to the fact it is the naffest event ever.
As director and actor, Ryan is keen to share the spotlight in this film and isn’t selfish with his part at all. He hasn’t given himself the best lines, he doesn’t get the girl and he’s not in every frame, so accusations that this is a vanity project don’t apply unless considered so from the other side of the camera only. The role of Wayne is completely different from the aggrieved kidnapper Seth in Stockholm, demonstrating another side to Ryan’s acting repertoire.
The Christmas Party is a modest and fun little outing, which doesn’t take itself seriously yet is deceptively astute in its observations of its subject. Consider this a pleasant stocking filler of a film!
This film will be making its way around the independent film festivals in 2015. For more information please visit see the film’s IMDB page at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3776448