Short Film Review

Nursery Rhymes

Why is a metal head singing Old MacDonald on the side of a rural highway?
directed by TOM NOAKS
produced by LUCY GAFFY, MORGAN BENSON-TAYLOR, WILL GOODFELLOW
written by WILL GOODFELLOW
View all credits

Taking the Audience on a Journey

By Max Paterson
There are an incredible number of one take short films out there, perhaps too many. It so often feels a supplementary ‘spice’ to the film to make it a little unique or to feel clever. “Nursery Rhymes” is the perfect exception. This film archives gradual revelation of the story through using the tool of a slow camera pan that feels both invisible and perfectly intertwined with the short.
“’Nursery Rhymes’ began with Will Goodfellow’s page-turning script. He’s a longtime collaborator, and as soon as I read it, it was a no brainer: we had to make this film. Will and I are especially interested in immersive experiences and spellbinding films that mesmerize the audience through atmosphere and tone.”  - Tom Noakes (Director)
There are an incredible number of one take short films out there, perhaps too many. It so often feels a supplementary ‘spice’ to the film to make it a little unique or to feel clever. “Nursery Rhymes” is the perfect exception. This film archives gradual revelation of the story through using the tool of a slow camera pan that feels both invisible and perfectly intertwined with the short. 

I’ve watched this film many times now, possible close to 20 times. I’m always left with a powerful raw feeling at the end. Having shown it to friends and colleagues, this experience seems to touch every viewer. Tragedy in short form, I believe is one of the most difficult genres to pull off effectively. My theory; people need a strong connection with a character before they can fully feel the weight on an event. This film somehow managed to pull of total connection with characters in just a space of seconds. 

I could go into how much I love how the story is gradually revealed, never too slow to bore or confuse, and never too much information. And yet, in my perspective, the real triumph of the short is in the last 30s. 

The camera comes to a completion of its pan on a close up of the Metalhead Girl teary eye staring blankly at Metalhead Boy. Metalhead Boy stops singing, and the shot tilts down to see a child crying in her arms “Keep singing, keep going” she says before a final closer shot of ‘Metalhead Boy’ staring off to the side. In these last few moments the film archives so much, in such a subtle yet moving way. It paints the answer to the biggest question the audience has from the start Why is he singing old MacDonald?. It brings the film full circle back to the shot of Metalhead Boy, and it draws the conclusion to the film in the what I unofficially like to call “Short Film Punch Line Structure” - Meaning the entire short film is building up to a moment at the end which either shocks, scares, makes a joke, or in this case makes sense of the situation. 

“A great film can turn your world upside down and shape who you are. There are a few films that have done that for me, and I hope to one day do that for someone else, too.”
I am so wholeheartedly impressive with the well crafted journey this short film takes you on - And as I’ve found, takes every viewer on. It’s no easy task to deliver something that is neither so obvious and subsequently cheesy, or too painful, and yet guide every viewer through the same powerful experience. To do this in under 5 minutes, is truly incredible.

Hats off to the creative team behind this film!
 

Awards & Nominations

2018 Sydney Film Festival Dendy Awards - Winner Best Director

 

2018 Palm Springs Shortfest - Special Mention for Best-Live Action Short 15 Minutes and Under

 

2018 AACTA Award for Best Short Film - Nominated

 

2019 Stellar Short Film Festival - Best Film

 

2019 23rd REGARD, Saguenay International Short Film Festival - Public Award

 

2018 Australian Sound Designers Guild Awards - Best Sound in a Short Film - Nominated

 

2018 Australian Casting Directors Guild - Best Casting in a Short Film

 

2019 Flickerfest International Film Festival - Best Cinematography

References

Quotes & images from Vimeo Staff Pick Premiere "Nursery Rhymes" by Tom Noaks

Behind the scenes images captured by Craig Martin

Author

MAX PATERSON
Director, Valley Films

Valley Films

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