Chris Purnell’s feature film, Christmas Hear Kids, tells the story of cabbie Jamie (Graham Stewart) and his latest fare, Laura (Hanna Stanbridge). As Jamie prattles away about any and everything, Laura is visibly disinterested and aggressive towards his method of small talk. Jamie presses forward, however, and Laura decides to steer the conversation in a very different direction, one that will have life-altering consequences for them both.
Christmas Hear Kids is both a psychological thriller and the prototypical independent film. Dialogue and performance-driven, turning its limitations into the strengths, it’s a prime example of what one can do when you let exceptional actors run with a strong script. It’s the type of film that has a simplicity that is deceptive. In theory, it seems like anyone could pull something like this off; in practice, not so much.
One of the more unique aspects regarding this film is that it was allegedly made in 48 hours. While it makes perfect sense, one main location where two actors go back-and-forth is perfect for such a filming limitation, it’s all the more impressive that the film can sustain a feature length. 48-hour competition short films, for example, can often have issues standing up for five to ten minutes.
But this isn’t just a film that is good for being made in 48 hours, it’s a good film period. The acting is spectacular throughout, which goes a long way towards elevating this entire idea. Get the wrong two people in the car trying to have this conversation, and you’ve not got anything half as compelling. Stanbridge and Stewart, however, knock it out of the park. Stanbridge in particular delivers a devastating performance, in all the best ways.
I was also a fan of the way the film played with the lighting in the car. Again, it’s one location, set at night, so there’s not much room to work with the elements without getting too distracting with it all. In this case, the film works with the ambient light from the car’s taillights or the traffic and lighting all around, to give a strange palette and glow to the film. In its way it can become a film of dialogue and performance that turns into a dance of melancholic colors, if you’re inclined to oblige it so.
Ultimately, Christmas Hear Kids is a simple film that owns its limitations and delivers something transcendent. Its subject matter is challenging, its performances incredible and its overall effect lasting. This is a reminder that you don’t need millions of cash in your budget to create something powerful.
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