29th Jan2021

‘Phase’ Review

by Kevin Haldon

Stars: Richard Sandling, Katie Pritchard, John Henry Falle, Stu Goldsmith, Sophie Cameron, Stephen Frost, Janet Prince | Written and Directed by Richard Sandling

Sometimes all you can do is admit you may have been wrong…Case in point, I am on record as saying that I fear a barrage of lockdown/isolation “Zoom” movies that are inevitability coming our way, I mean it stands to reason that as we haven’t been able to go anywhere and movie and TV sets have been shut down, of course people will jump onto Zoom and try to become the next Spielberg, because what the hell else are they gonna do? My fear though was that, much like the movie industry moves in trends, that this would become the trend and – honestly – I kinda just want to forget this period of history.

Then Host came along. A 50 minute Zoom-style horror that totally blew me away. So much so that I was starting to warm to the idea of “Zoom movies.” Then Phase came into my view, a Quaran-Comedy from an actor/comedian I had previously seen, and enjoyed, in Nightshooters. That man is Richard Sandling – actor, comedian and much more – and it looked like he had rounded up a collection of his nearest and made good use of a shitty lockdown. I went into this one skeptical but also hopeful…

Rich/Ricardo/Richard (Sandling) has decided to use the lockdown to his benefit and is getting back into his acting, poetry and musical side. On the day we meet him he is preparing for a “big” online presentation of his works. He spends the day Zooming his friends and family (much like we all have been) and having various conversations. People like his mum and dad, best friends Katie and Cass, somewhat estranged friend and influencer Chris Radar (Stu Goldsmith) and more. Will his mum and dad ever take the virus seriously? Why does his girlfriend have so many sex toys? Is his friend onto something and aliens are on the way?

First things first. Katie Pritchard is absolutely incredible here, what a revelation she was! The funny thing is, almost EVERY line of dialogue she had during her initial monologue was completely relatable to me, however I’m a husband with three kids so I best not say it out loud. There are, honestly, some superb performances in Phase but Pritchard straight-up steals the entire film for me; and this is not a slight on anyone because EVERYONE is great. However Pritchard is definitely a case of perfect casting… what a performance!

Sandling doesn’t make anything easy for himself here either, as the lead character, the films editor, director, camera man and, I guess, just about everything else! Considering we are in a lockdown and can’t do our normal day-to-day it’s pretty impressive he was able to get people into his concept and execute it as well as he has. I genuinely loved this! It’s strange because while I really don’t want to take a snapshot of this current time, Richard Sandling has created a bearable one in the way he has picked up on the conversations people are having. The Anti-Vaxers, Clap for Carers and many other points of note; all neatly woven into an interesting, clever, script with plenty of laughs to keep you invested. Plus the dialogue is natural even when it delves into surreal supernatural and I truly believed the chemistry on screen – which can’t be easy to do over Zoom.

To be fair, Phase had me from the moment Sandling’s “parents” come on the screen, played by Stephen Frost and Janet Prince. If ever there was a way to pull your audience right into your world it’s with these two wonderful humans. Also John Henry Falle is simply wonderful as the conspiracy-nut friend and the back-and-forth chat the duo have is some of the most natural “friendly conversation” in a movie I’ve seen in years; you can feel a genuine undertone of worry for his mate but it absolutely doesn’t have to be said out loud. Plus Stu Goldsmith embodies 90% of my lockdown experience – trying to get stuff done with a million and one distractions!

I think it’s pretty obvious that I enjoyed Phase, it gets in and does what it sets out to do and that is entertain you for just over an hour. It also reminds the audience that we are all pretty much going through it right now and even though we can’t be together it doesn’t mean we can’t be “together.”

Now there is a certain plot point to the movie I have not touched on and this is due to **spoilers** but I really want people to check this out and give it some love because this movie is not only a one-band production but it’s also a stand up comedian/actor putting himself right out there. Yes I had issues, for instance the last couple of minutes didn’t do much for me but I did get what he was trying to do. But in the end I absolutely LOVED Phase!

Having Goldie Lookin’ Chain star Eggsy pop up and in a blink and you’ll miss it cameo is a bonus. It’s just a shame he’s not in it longer because I adore GLC. Honestly though, British comedy needs to take a good long look at Katie Pritchard because she is a star in waiting and I personally can’t wait to see what Richard Sandling does going forward too… I’m a fan!

**** 4/5

Check out Phase here: vimeo.com/ondemand/phase


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