From Alison Piper's Webpage, March 2015
Imagine a baby giraffe trying to tap dance on your mum’s freshly polished laminate flooring. Are you with me? Now, imagine the giraffe is wearing a boiler suit and a manic smile. It’s holding a mop and bucket. It loves dancing - it is the dance. Can you picture the legs, the flailing?
It's with this kind of humour and finesse that twenty-five year old James (Tyler Collins) mops urine from the corridors of the care home in which his ailing grandfather is a resident. He’s an incredibly tall and lanky but handsome idiot whose story of love and courage had me in tears within the first five minutes of its telling.
‘Where Do We Go From Here’ is the debut feature film from Scottish writer / director John McPhail. After premiering at the Sydney Indie Film Festival last year the low-budget homegrown feature had its UK premiere at the Glasgow International Film Festival last month, to two sell out audiences. What makes the film such a strong piece of work is the beauty and simplicity of the story, and the story is James; he is a tall, loveable fool - the lanky spine from which heart-breaking and hilarious moments grow into a body of comedy gold.
Orphaned and raised alone by his grandfather (Jim Sweeney), young James forestalls plans to travel the world when his grandfather falls ill and ends up in a care home. The tables quickly turn and a concerned James unpacks his bags, puts his life on hold and takes a job as a cleaner in the same care home so that he can support the man who loved and raised him - a heartwarming premise that doesn't let us down as the story develops.
James befriends a bunch of geriatrics; compulsive liar Joan (Alison Peebles), Malcolm the mute (Richard Addison), and the warm and caring Nancy (Deirdre Murray). When his grandfather passes away James finds himself in limbo, living in a care home with his crutch of ageing friends. Of course, it’s also a love story and when James hatches a plan to usurp Miss Thomson, the Machiavellian care home manager (an oozingly evil Maryam Hamidi) and take the gang on a minibus adventure to Deep-Sea-World, he enlists the help of surly nurse Jen (Lucy-Jane Quinlan) and attempts to win her affections by helping her to recognise the beauty in the myriad possibilities that life holds.
‘Where Do We Go From Here’ does have its weaknesses, the opening montage takes us from the moment orphaned baby James is handed to his grandfather and takes us right up to the point where James is already living in the care home, surrounded by his gaggle of elderlies and clutching an urn containing his grandfather’s ashes. Yes, it did make me cry, but it was about a minute too long and I would like to have seen more of that story unfold out with the montage.
McPhail occasionally leans on clichéd comedy tropes such as the moment when Malcolm the mute finds a talking speech toy and uses it to blurt out Stephen Hawking style commentaries, but, the timing is perfect, and nearly everything about this film that I could pick apart, I can forgive for the reason that it was made with a budget of £50,000 and that it was shot in sixteen days. Yes that’s right. They shot a feature film in sixteen days and it looks incredible. Cinematographer Grant McPhee creates a bright, colourful world that is full of joy and suits the adventure-seeking attitude of the sprightly care home residents.
This film is captivating, and the few scenes that don’t flow as smoothly as the eye might like were obviously compromised for coverage because of the tight budget and schedule. To this end McPhail’s talents as a director become strikingly evident as he deftly chooses what needs to be covered in order to tell the story effectively. No trim, no frills, no time to make mistakes. His efforts are laudable and this film is a remarkable example of what can be done with nothing.
Unfortunately Scottish film is very poorly funded and it's a subject of much discussion. John and the gang, however, know when to talk and when to just get on with it and do what they can with what they’ve got.
‘Where Do We Go From Here’ is the homegrown Scottish independent feature film that a community of makers, and audiences alike, have been eagerly waiting for. Rich with themes of community, it expounds a belief that friendships between youth and the elderly should be encouraged and nurtured. Not only that but this film was essentiallymade by a community. Everybody and their mum seems to have believed in what John was trying to do and they put in their two cents where government supported funding bodies didn't.
John and the team at Worrying Drake seem to know that in these modern times, funding for features is more often awarded off the back of a good self-funded feature, a body of shorts is rarely enough. It seems that filmmakers today need to be able to show what they can do with nothing before they are given a pot to play with, which leads to the pertinent question, ‘Where Will They Go From Here?’
I think, John, wherever you want.
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