Director: Richard Anthony Dunford
Cast: Neil Summerville, Harriet Madeley
Plot: A lonely man (Summerville) decides to committ suicide on Christmas Day, but is stopped by an intervening ghost of a jumper three years previous (Madeley).
It’s a little hard to decide whether Jump is an uplifting Christmas tale, following the footsteps of Charles Dickens’ classic, Christmas Carol, with the aim of taking a dark topic, using the backdrop of Christmas to extend the misery of the situation, but attacking the subject matter with a festive cheerfulness that gives it a punch-the-air feel. It hits the same notes, yet at the same time, this short always threatens to be more of a black comedy, finding a grim discussion and using the debate to slide some controversial yet amusing gags into a short film. Whatever side of the coin you decide Richard Anthony Dunford’s short falls on, it is plain to see that this is a cracking piece of cinema and a healthy nine minute treat for anyone who fancies a break from their day.
The set-up is simple. Neil Summerville plays a put-down man trapped in a house on his own on Christmas Day. He looks forlornly at his divorce papers and decides that he isn’t really getting that Christmas spirit. However, upon reaching the roof and making the decision to jump, he finds himself confronted with Harriet Madeley’s rotting corpse. Thankfully, Madeley isn’t playing a brain-eating zombie, but a body trapped in limbo who decides to try and convince Summerville’s depressed divorcee to fight through his misery. What Jump essentially gives us is a crafty duologue between the two characters (although Madeley takes the bulk of the dialogue, Summerville acting with his physicality rather than his words), dissecting the decision to commit suicide. The interesting thing about Jump is how Dunford directs his characters. Right from the opening sequence, there isn’t something absurdly tragic about Summerville. The pleasant Christmas sweater juxtaposes the sombre mood of the piece. Summerville’s performance is carefully exaggerated and emotional, working hard to gather every inch of feeling from the scene. And then we are introduced to the dead body of a girl. You would think, judging from the opening minute of the film, this is where Dunford is going to rub his hands with glee and go full absurdist theatre. A dead spirit on Christmas Day is the stuff of director’s dreams. However, Madeley’s performance is surprisingly real, a grounded, honest portrayal of a girl, who just so happens to be dead. It makes the chemistry between the two characters that bit more engaging, as Summerville stammers at the sight of a bloody corpse in front of him, while Madeley dreamily reminisces about the events leading up to her death. Dunford’s direction purposefully makes the newcomer the more relatable figure, which gives the actress the chance to steal the show. Madeley’s easy-going charisma bleeds through the narrative and she steals small laughs from the situation without ever looking like she is trying.
You almost want this to be a twenty minute debate, or perhaps even a feature, taking the action off of the roof and further into the lonely man’s life. Dunford starts down the road of delivering a heart-warming discussion into tempting this man down from the ledge, bringing up the reasons why one shouldn’t jump. There is a whole future ahead of you, don’t let the people who victimise you win… sadly, as this is a nine minute piece, there is nowhere near enough time to do the topic justice. It reels off the expected points, albeit delivered in a new and natural way, yet Jump never quite escapes the idea that it is little more than a motivational poster. It could have also done with some Pro-Suicide arguments, as strange as that sounds, to make the discussion feel more real and wholesome. Alas, again, this is a short film and as with all short films, some of the bigger ideas are going to end up in the cutting room floor. It does the job and sends both characters away, revelling in a cheerful Christmas happy ending. Yet it doesn’t… Dunford hits us with a well-timed punch-line, a twist you won’t see coming. It’s clever, the best joke of the movie and ends the show on a high. However, does it defeat the message, muddying the point of the film? It is hard to tell if it is a clever trick to pull the carpet from the viewers feet, reversing everything we thought we knew about the genre, or a last minute lack of judgement, turning the whole affair into little more than a set-up for some fine black comedy. However, this is more a subject of taste than talent, so this review signs off with Richard Anthony Dunford’s short being an unusual, yet entertaining short film.
Final Verdict: Dunford cleverly directs his two gifted performers into debating the suicide plight, even if the ending hurts the message slightly.