There is a moment towards the end of Old Windows (2022) where we get left behind. Director Paul Holbrook leaves us alone for a moment and allows us to sit and appreciate the wonderful locale of this short: a greasy spoon café somewhere in southern England.
Going into the weekend dancing
We all know the type of place, no matter where we’re from. Everywhere has their own version of it. The type of small café you find in the centre of town, probably near a bus stop. Old Windows gives you the British experience replete with its own unique decor: posters that have been up for 10 years or more, scarves from the local footy team and those horrible metal teapots they give you your cuppa in. Watch you don’t burn yourself on the handle! We’ve all done that too.
The café here is as vital as its two protagonists and Holbrook’s short film isn’t afraid to let us linger as cinematographer James Oldham bathes it, and us, in a warm sunset-orange. The day is over, and we’re lucky to sneak a peek into this world before it closes for the day.
Which is exactly what Larry Lamb’s Harry is doing: popping in despite the closed sign and interrupting
Laura Bayston’s Kerri. A good-natured woman who, when we meet her, is ushering out her last customer. Whacking up the radio once alone and treating herself to a bit of a groove as she tidies; shaking off the day’s stresses.
A wonderfully endearing moment in both its simplicity and impact.
Letting the light shine through its Old Windows
Harry then proceeds to be a bit of a nightmare customer, really. Chuntering away and complaining about the Eccles cakes just as Kerri wants to go home; picking apart her life as he reads her café walls like tea leaves. Discerning things about her despite her best efforts like some kind of retired carnival psychic.
It has a weirdly ominous air to it, but never strays too far into these waters. We know Harry knows something. He wouldn’t be in there otherwise. He’s a sinister figure, replete with Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) cock-er-ney twang. But what does he know? Why is he there? Kerri’s too nice to be in his world, surely?
Warm and comfortable viewing, bathed in orange light
Holbrook’s direction and Bayston’s writing drip-feeds us clues and keeps us semi-guessing as to what is happening until the film ends. You’ll see it coming. The end is predictable. But here, the ending isn’t really the most important thing. It’s the journey.
This is a story of things slipping away. Of chances lost and being robbed from us as we move along the road. As such, Old Windows’ gentle battle of wits between Lamb and Bayston becomes a beautiful slice of
Eccles cake life piece. Watching Kerri and Harry as they connect the dots and realise their connection to one another is like a warm cuppa and a sausage sandwich on the way home: a welcome break.
Editor & Artwork: Richard Williams
Images courtesy of Shunk Films