A Thousand Words was a disastrous flop of a film, confined to development hell for two years before maturing into the eventual pile of manure that came to pass. By stripping Eddie Murphy of his voice, his strongest asset, the film stripped itself of all ability to thrive. Yet it boasted a fascinating concept: what happens when your remaining life is measured by the words you speak? Andrew Chaplin’s 1500 Words delivers on the concept’s promise through dark humour, flair and emotion.
As the short opens to a wondrous, deadpan voiceover from Michael Smiley, there’s an immediate sense of promise; a smirking, curious, and cheeky short that could go in several directions. It could go down the maligned, saccharine route of emotional realisation. As the character’s words dry out, they become weakened, shrivelled, hulks of dead space. Luckily, the short invokes nothing so severe as James Menzies’ clever screenplay dances on several tables. As the short rapidly develops, there are dabbles in dark, witty humour that never overshadow the strong emotional core. It’s a difficult act to pull off but Menzies’ script has enough savvy to realise when to go for laughs, and when to pluck at the heartstrings.
Marcus Garvey is a strong lead who brings all the promise together. His bold physical presence ensures the humour continues to pulse through the short’s veins. His stares, winks and gentle punches to his spouse’s arm in place of his now absent words are outright funny, and conjure genuine laughs.
The ending may divide some, but it’s a fitting end to this darkly humorous short. In reality if this concept is done well, it should never fail. It’s charming, it’s funny, it’s surprisingly emotional. There’s little more you can ask for in just eight minutes.
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CAST: Marcus Garvey, Eri Jackson, Rachael Naylor, Michael Smiley
DIRECTOR: Andrew Chaplin
WRITER: James Menzies
SYNOPSIS: What would you do if you went to the doctors and discovered that you only had 1500 words left to live? What would you say? Are some words more important than others?