We have a long way to go, but so far it is shaping up to be a bad year for movies. With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to destroy the theater industry, most studios have decided to hold back on releasing their best films until 2022 or 2023. What remains is a glut of mediocre-to-bad flicks that are being dumped onto various streaming platforms, in the hope that they’ll be watched simply because nobody has anything better to do. Have you been eagerly awaiting a cozy night in during which you can watch The Little Things, a new detective drama starring Denzel Washington and Rami Malek that was just released on HBO Max? Well don’t, because the movie sucks, and that’s why you can see it now on HBO Max instead of in a movie theater in 2022.
It’s a grim landscape, which is why it was such a delight to stumble upon a truly surprising indie release, Best of the Handforth Parish Council Planning & Environment Committee Thursday 10th December 2020, which is now available for free(!) on YouTube. Here, at long last, is a movie to save you from another night of aimlessly scrolling through Netflix.
Best of the Handforth Parish Council Planning & Environment Committee Thursday 10th December 2020‘s strengths are derived from its self-assurance. With a runtime of just 18:09 (though one can’t help but wonder if there are plans for a director’s cut), it leaves little room for superfluousness. It wastes no time with exposition and very little with plotting; if forced to explain what the movie is “about,” I suppose I would say it involves local parish council members attempting to conduct a meeting.
This is a movie, much like the Safdie Brothers’ 2019 smash Uncut Gems, that understands the power of atmosphere. The audience is dropped straight into the film’s richly imagined world without any handholding, and is never granted much time to find its footing. “When do we plan to start?” and “Fuck off,” are the first two lines of dialogue the audience hears, and from there we are continually bombarded with a cacophony of blood-pressure raising sounds and dialogue. The methods by which some of the most nerve-racking moments are engineered—a council member taking a phone call without muting her mic; what sounds very much like a toilet flushing offscreen—will leave you beaming with admiration even as you struggle to catch your breath.
Best of the Handforth Parish Council Planning & Environment Committee Thursday 10th December 2020 is a movie that knows exactly what it wants to do, and that is to get out of the way and allow the performance of its ensemble cast to grab the audience by the lapels and refuse to let go.
And what performances! Jackie Weaver holds everything together at the center of the cast, moving the story along and drawing out the best of the characters around her through her steady and charmingly drab performance. Weaver understands her role perfectly here, leaving plenty of space for her castmates to really stretch their legs, and they do not miss a single opportunity to do so. Handforth PC Clerk (there’s a delicious twist about halfway through the film that explains how he got that name) makes his bid to become one of the most memorable villains of the past decade, despite only being on screen for less than a third of the movie. It’s his needling back-and-forths with Weaver that provide the movie’s locomotion in the first act, and the fact that his absence looms just as large in the later acts as his presence did in the first is a testament to his performance.
The real scene-stealer, however, is Aled’s iPad. It’s rare to see a performance like this one, so fully unburdened by expectations or self-consciousness. Aled’s iPad gives itself to the film without hesitation, unleashing line after line that left this reviewer in awe. In one scene, Aled’s iPad is channeling all the bug-eyed intensity of Michael Shannon while screaming, “Read the standing orders. Read them and understand them!” In the next, it’s bringing us the best version of Tom Hardy’s boiling intensity while muttering offscreen about subpoenas. If Aled’s iPad doesn’t go home with a handful of awards at the end of the year, something will have gone very wrong.
If there’s any criticism to be made of Best of the Handforth Parish Council Planning & Environment Committee Thursday 10th December 2020, it’s that the third act peters out a bit. All the frenzy and mania of the first two-thirds of the movie give way, and Weaver steps back to the fore to bring the story to its conclusion. It’s not an illogical story-telling decision, but it’s hard not to miss the madness of Aled’s iPad and Handforth PC Clerk during the film’s quieter, more introspective moments. All for the best, though, as anyone who watches this movie will likely be thankful for the chance to lower their heart rate a bit before it ends.
Best of the Handforth Parish Council Planning & Environment Committee Thursday 10th December 2020 is now streaming on YouTube.