With the rallying cry of its hashtagged title, Tom Gilroy’s #WaynesvilleStrong is a darkly comic and scarily plausible vision of a very near future in which low-wage work, enforced patriotism and the panoptic powers of the internet combine to create a pandemic hellscape that one laid-off meatpacking worker must delicately navigate, one videocall prompt at a time. The short was made quickly, in May and during quarantine, with everyone appropriately socially distanced, and to its great credit that what was political satire just two months ago is now turning into, with the current battles over “reopening,” political reality. The short stars Orange is the New Black‘s Nick Sandow, and the slow burn of his impatient anxiety as he subjects himself to the merciless probing of the government’s AI-fueled videochat adjudication system will create a frisson of recognition for anyone who’s been stuck on hold trying to receive their stimulus check.
Gilroy has been making independent films since the mid-’90s, with features including Spring Forward and The Cold Lands. In the conversation below, fellow director Jim McKay discusses with him the work’s relation to science fiction — particularly 1984 and J.G. Ballard, how the short was produced during quarantine with a iPhone 10, the influence of Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, and what it means for a work to be political today.
McKay: This film was conceived about a month into stay-at-home and made about a month later and finished a month after that. The world changed radically in those three months but the story stayed very relevant and at times is even more in-the-moment than when it was conceived. Can you talk about its inception and then how current events effected the work, if at all? Gilroy: The impetus in writing it was to respond in real time to the government roll-out of yet another unprecedented and mismanaged disaster. I never thought about what the script could be or where it could go. I’d just reached a point where there was no holding back; it was an almost unconscious act. This impulse was of course pressurized by the inability to leave the house, and some kind of “producer brain” must’ve instinctively kicked in where I realized quarantine dictated the piece would be a monologue.
“They liked his naughty side. They liked his adversarial side. They liked him taking on the fairies. They liked his cleverness. They liked his arrogance. Eoin Colfer, the author of the books, described the idea as putting an 11-year-old [James] Bond villain into an action movie and the first one he described as ‘‘Die Hard’ with fairies.’ ”
The Hobbledehoy never fail to see the latest film from British director Mike Leigh. High Hopes, Life Is Sweet, Career Girls, Happy Go Lucky are each wonderful films, but the one we need to help us through the Covid-19 lockdown is 2010’s Another Year.
Why is film necessary viewing during our confinement? I love how the characters in Another Year take care of each other. The script covers four seasons in the life of one British couple, Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen) and their small group of friends. The couple tends a seasonal garden that requires tender care, as does their challenging friend “Mary” (Lesley Manville) – a deeply troubled narcissist trying to hold onto her youth by pursuing her friend’s much younger son. There is birth, death, disease and always much love throughout.
Leigh’s actors Broadbent (Another Year, Life Is Sweet) Sheen (High Hopes, Vera Drake) and Manville (High Hopes) each give brilliant performances.
Said one reviewer of Another Year: “Ordinary people doing really ordinary things and making these things really important.”
I suppose that’s what we are each doing during this lockdown – making seemingly ordinary things, like staying at home, really important. And caring for each other, even our crazy friends.
Have you seen Another Year ? If so, tell us your thoughts. Have your own film recommendation to help us get through? Tell us.
He is perhaps Britain’s foremost cinematic chronicler of working-class angst and quotidian humanism.
I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when Ken Loach first learned about the “gig economy.” The debilitating delusion underlying that concept — the dream of being your own boss, only to find yourself trapped on an accelerating, unstoppable hamster wheel of work — fits right in with the veteran director’s moral vision of a world in which ordinary humans regularly think they can outsmart a system designed to destroy them. Loach is perhaps Britain’s foremost cinematic chronicler of working-class angst and quotidian humanism. Strident outrage bubbles just beneath the ambling, improvisational cadences of his films. And I can only imagine that the old lefty director of Kes, Raining Stones, and The Wind That Shakes the Barley blew a gasket when he learned about how so many of today’s workers have been bilked into thinking they can be free operators in a tech-enabled landscape of merciless profit. […] Continue reading →