2023 has been a fantastic year for film. Amidst the unstoppable juggernauts of Barbieheimer and indie critic darlings such as Anatomy of a Fall, the previous 12 months have been peppered with an incredible array of short films, in particular short films created in Scotland. As the year draws to a close, here’s my top picks for Scottish short films produced in 2023. Enjoy!
And So It Was by Niall Morison MacRae
Niall Morison MacRae’s touching documentary takes us to the barren Outer Hebrides to explore the future of island communities from Norah, Niall’s grandmother and the longest serving post office worker in history. Sparse and still cinematography transports us around the island, delivering a visual time capsule for a way of life that is rapidly disappearing, leaving only memories for the survivors of a bygone time and a set of customs that are intrinsic to our culture.
Gomorrah by Aaron J McIntyre
Gomorrah is probably the most difficult of these shorts to summarise, and therein lies its beauty. Francis Dykes, our pale faced, world weary, narcissistic tour guide drags us through the sweaty crowds of his atmospheric, nauseating and kaleidoscopic Irvine Welsh-esque empire. As he manoeuvres us through the violent, chaotic revellers that fill his hedonistic nightmarish landscape, he looks for some level of redeeming qualities and final dregs of humanity in the reflections of broken, stained bathroom mirrors. The stunning visuals and whirling soundtrack turn a grim and gritty journey into a thing of true beauty.
Groom by Leyla Coll-O’Reilly
The real magic in Groom is its ability to take the instantly recognisable and subvert it until it becomes overpowering and grotesque. We follow Hannah on her first day trialling at a beauty salon, where the omnipotent salon boss rules with an iron fist. Each frame is textured with a visual style that is equal measures of inviting and repulsive, leaving our audience unsure of what to feel. This sense is heightened as Hannah is placed in ever more compromising positions by her boss who switches effortlessly between tease and tyrant. The tight focus and pacing of the film leaves no space to consider how much danger Hannah is in until it is too late.
Bad Beans by Jack Willison
From the very beginning, Jack Willison creates a frenetic energy that builds and builds until the audience is whipped into an unescapable frenzy. What makes this even more impressive is that Jack and the team managed to deliver this in the space of 48 hours, creating this film as part of the 48 Hour Film Festival. What makes it even more impressive is that they pulled it off with a single take. Mild mannered protagonist Charlie has a penchant for making every situation progressively worse as the simple act of buying a coffee explodes into a catastrophic sequence of events in a very short space of time. It really is tremendous fun and leaves audiences completely fulfilled with the experience of watching it.
Car Sick by David Hayman Jr.
Car Sick’s mastery of small, enclosed spaces and still managing to leave enough room for big performances within the frame, is the sign of a director who is very comfortable with the craft. Our hypochondriac protagonist, rather than spend time at home with a loving and supportive family, now lives in her car on hospital grounds just in case something goes terribly wrong. In a world where our healthcare system is under intense pressure, Car Sick tells a story inspired by true events of our obsession with health and the consequences of our actions when we have a singular and obsessive focus on one thing. The story is teased out at a steady pace, using the framing of small, practical details to bring us along in the passenger seat of our character’s frame of mind.