17th Dec2019

‘The Cunning Man’ Short Film Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Simon Armstrong, Ali Cook, Ian Kelly, Charlotte Jo Hanbury | Written by Ali Cook | Directed by Zoe Dobson

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Shown at this year’s Frightfest, The Cunning Man is not the most obvious of shorts to be playing at that festival. Inspired by John Harries (1785-1839) a physician and ‘cunning man’ – a healer who uses folklore magic; the film tells the story of an elderly and mysterious farmer who drifts through the Welsh valleys collecting dead animals. What he has in store for those animals soon becomes apparent.

The Cunning Man looks fantastic. You’d be forgiven for believing that this is just an extract from a big-budgeted full feature film. There’s some really nice cinematography, with lingering shots on animals – first some dead flies and then a sheep that are near enough perfect. Using farmland and the countryside, in just a few brief shots you get a feel of the location, the story and its characters.

The musical score is expertly crafted by Lol Hammond, somebody who has plenty of experience. Both mesmerizing and at times haunting, it really added to the movie.

I somehow instantly recognized actor Ali Cook from his brief appearance in Emmerdale and he’s really good in his role but can also take credit for writing the short. It’s a nicely written piece that might be low on action but lets the actors and their actions bring everything to life. Simon Armstrong (Game of Thrones) has a perfect look for his role in the lead and he performs excellently.

Like all the best short movies this works brilliantly in its twelve minute run time but would also work just as well as a full feature length movie. In fact if there was any plans to expand this into a movie then I would love to see what director Zoe Dobson and writer Ali Cook come up with. There’s a whole load of possibilities and directions for it to go in.

There really is nothing to criticize about The Cunning Man. It’s a well-made, original short movie that will put a smile on your face and leave you wanting more.

***** 5/5

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