Cut (2009)

2009 #20a
Joe Wright | 2 mins | streaming

CutIs Cut an advert or is it a film?

On one hand, websites featuring it always refer to it as a “short film”; it stars film star Keira Knightley; is directed by BAFTA-winner Joe Wright; tells a story in a film (as opposed to advert) style; and is a whole two minutes long.

On the other, it’s paid for by Women’s Aid to front a campaign to raise awareness of domestic violence; it ends with a message to this effect, also featuring no title card or credits; it’s not listed on IMDb; it’s been shown for free among adverts in cinemas and online; it would’ve appeared on TV too if Clearcast hadn’t banned it for being “too violent”; and it’s only two minutes long.

It’s an advert, isn’t it? But it shouldn’t’ve been blocked from TV, which has incensed me enough to pretend it’s a film for the purposes of my little corner of the Internet.

Or half pretend, because purely as a film it isn’t great. It’s well shot by Wright, but some of the dialogue is too on-the-nose to convince and it’s actually slightly padded near the start — so slightly that in anything longer it wouldn’t be noticeable, but when something’s only 125 seconds, every one counts. On the other hand, it tells its story economically, using single shots to establish a lot of detail about characters, their lifestyles and their relationships, aided by Knightley playing a version of herself. In this the length and depth of story chosen are well-balanced.

When the violence comes, it’s moderately brutal. And here’s the rub — it’s arguably not brutal enough to cover the horrid reality of what some people have to suffer. It’s been made suitable to be shown on TV in a slot where people will see it — which, for its aims as an awareness advert, is completely appropriate. In the wake of Clearcast’s stupid ban I was expecting something more severe, which counterintuitively means the violence is more shocking for what it isn’t. Maybe whoever makes the decisions at Clearcast should watch Hostel: Part II before any appeal — or, to be honest, the 12A-rated Dark Knight might suffice.

With a brief running time and an important message to put across, Cut is a 5-out-of-5 advert, if only for the amount of talk and awareness it’s achieved. But I said I was trying to judge it as a film, so I’ll be a little tighter:

4 out of 5

Cut is available to stream for free on YouTube. More information about the campaign’s impact can be found on Wikipedia.

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