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Movie Reviews

Good Boy



Director: Tom Stuart

Cast: Ben Whishaw, Dino Fetscher, Marion Bailey

In real life, grief is a very individual experience. In real life, it can be hard to get grief right. Exploring it in an original way that captures its many facets within the confines of a short film is an impressive feat. actor/ director Tom Stuart manages it with his short, Good Boy, starring Ben Whishaw.

Stuart lost his mother suddenly and unexpectedly at the beginning of the pandemic. He found that the resulting grief hit him in many different ways, not just in the way most often depicted on screen; the grieving person shut down, unable to get out of bed. That was only part of it. During a five-hour walk along the Southbank with Ben Whishaw, he discussed it all and his writing ideas. Whishaw encouraged him to explore his thoughts and feelings by directing a film. The result was what Stuart describes as a love letter to his mother.

Good Boy is his directorial debut. It’s a layered, nuanced work, not without humour amidst the sadness. Even though it’s only minutes long, it moves quickly and packs a closet full of stories, emotions and memories. From the Elvis hanging ornament in the van he travels in with his mother to the ‘posh biscuits’ she asks him to get for her, there are many small, poignant and tender nuggets of information the film offers about their relationship.

Whishaw, who knew Stuart’s mother, explained why he took on the role at a Q+A at the BFI screening of the film. “The script was original, funny, moving and brilliantly written. I hadn’t seen grief portrayed so beautifully and cleverly before.” Asked about short films as an art form, he reflected on how they have to be concise and like little puzzles that test people. As an actor, he said they were a good platform because they had no value in themselves, i.e. they were not made to make money. They were a “beautiful thing “that allowed actors to be raw and open because they were often personal pieces of work for the team behind them.

I asked him whether there was a difference in how he approached a role in a feature film and a short film. He said there was no difference in his approach, but often, the creator of the short film is a new person, and that gives him, as an actor, the opportunity to be very open and try anything. “You give yourself over to an experiment; you make yourself available to do whatever is required. “Stuart said that when he writes, it’s usually him trying to figure something out in his life, and in this case, it was his grief and where to place his mother now in his life.

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