Short stories are hard to pull off well. Creators, whether they’re authors or directors, have to strip their story down to its most essential elements, all while making sure their characters can still grab the attention of their audiences. A short film called Standby is a brilliant example of how a storyteller can do just that.
Written and directed by Charlotte Regan, Standby is about two British police officers on the job. I don’t want to say any more than that before you watch it, so go ahead and come back once you’ve done that.
Standby does something really clever: it sets the camera up on the dashboard and doesn’t move it. As we follow Gary (Andrew Paul) and Jenny (Alexa Morden) on their daily routine, it’s up to the viewer to infer what happens based on how they’re acting against one another as they get in and out of the car over the course of their time together. Gary, the senior officer, has been paired with Jenny, and it’s clear from the start that he’s not thrilled with being paired up with a rookie. But they drive around, Gary warms up as Jenny mouths along to a song on the radio, gets coffee, and gets her heart broken. The ending is genuinely heartbreaking, and sets up an utterly perfect ending that takes you right back to the beginning.
The film is only five minutes long, but it crams the life of an entire relationship into those short minutes, and does so as effectively as a much longer film. What’s more, this is all largely done without dialogue: Paul and Morden convey an incredible amount just by their glances and body motion. It’s easy to see why it’s won a bunch of awards (including a BAFTA nomination), and why it was selected for big festivals like the Toronto International Film Festival, London Short Film Festival, and others.
Hat tip to Tony Zhou for pointing this out on Twitter.