One thing I forgot to mention on my last London Short Film Festival review was the surprising standard of films I saw. I mean, not that I expected to see anything terrible, but I was pleasantly surprised to be impressed with all the shorts in the Fucked Up Love screening for one reason or another.

The Family Affairs screening went down just as well, if not better than Fucked Up Love. The wonderful thing about festivals, and blogs of course, is you get presented with the cream of the crop in one easy, painless viewing. The selection process however, is a completely different beast. For every amazing film you find, there’s bound to be nine average ones you’ve had to sit through before finding that gem. I was greeted by a familiar friend in this screening too, Marigolds by Stephanie Zari, a film I saw and wrote about as part of my Underwire coverage. I had real difficulties picking my favourite from this screening, as all the films were really great.

More Afraid of You was the charming tale of the relationship between a mother and daughter. Based on a short story by American writer Joshua Ferris, 80 year old Tessa is an arachnophobe convinced a giant spider is out to get her in the night. Daughter Lucy obviously finds this hard to believe and as she watches her mother slide into what she believes is dementia, Lucy also hears the noises keeping her mother up at night.

Filmed on Super 16mm by Mike George, the film looks as beautiful and idyllic as the country cottage it’s shot in. I think this may also be director Barry Kimber’s first short, a great achievement if so. Having what I guess could be a slight arachnophobia streak myself, I couldn’t help but feel for Tessa. The right amount of tension was kept throughout and only at the film’s end was it revealed just how ill Lucy’s mother was.

Boxer is the story of a homeless man with little to live for. In his rundown Scottish town, he witnesses an attack on a young girl and his intervention suddenly makes him feel he has something to live for. With barely any dialogue in the film, its shots speak for themselves, letting us feel the isolation experience by its lead. Although I think it could have benefitted from a couple minutes trimmed off its duration, Boxer is undoubtedly a beautiful portrait of a man desperate for his life to return to what it was. The pace and atmosphere of the film convincingly placed me in his shoes and when he tried to speak to the girl he saved, I couldn’t help but feel bitterly disappointed for him. Directed by Andrew Cumming for Kinetic media, the film’s grey landscape perfectly captured this man’s solitary existence.

Watch Boxer after the jump.

The Birthday Circle was a slightly more lighthearted film playing with the irony of age. As a middle aged couple visit relatives for a birthday party, they come with other issues they want to discuss and it isn’t long before a heated argument takes place.

Although an obvious look into family’s willingness to talk to each other but never really listen, I found myself laughing as these serious issues were discussed with a five year old boy. It had the entire screening in hysterics, so I wasn’t alone. Philip Lepherd does a great job of directing his very young lead and it’s one of my favorite shorts I’ve seen for awhile.

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