Await Further Instructions


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Await Further Instructions
"Await Further Instructions succeeds on all counts."

Despite the popular myth, Christmas with the family is an experience many people dread. Nick (Sam Gittins) has avoided it for some years, much to the consternation of his father (Grant Masters) and dismay of his anxious mother (Abigail Cruttenden). Now his girlfriend Annji (Neerja Naik) has persuaded him to go along because she wants to meet his family. They couldn't have chosen a worse time.

Completing the group are Nick's pregnant sister Kate (Holly Weston) and her dim boyfriend Scott (Kris Saddler), plus, stealing every scene he's in, David Bradley as a ribald, racist and malicious grandfather (Game Of Thrones fans will wince at the thought of being cooped up over Christmas with Walder Frey). There's tension from the outset, but things get ten times worse when, the next morning, they wake to find the house surrounded by a mysterious black substance. What's going on? Have they been the victims of a practical joke? Has there been a terrorist incident? Are they involved in some kind of reality TV programme? Naturally, they turn on the television, only to find that the screen is blank except for the words 'Stay Indoors and Await Further Instructions'.

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High concept cinema like this is a real gamble. It's difficult to live up to such a premise, to find an explanation that won't feel disappointing (dodging an explanation usually feels even worse) and to produce drama or comedy that's strong enough to engage alongside the central mystery. Await Further Instructions succeeds on all counts. There's an awareness of the need to up the ante, to take bolder imaginative leaps as the story develops. Writer Gavin Williams draws on a rich history of science fiction cinema to create something that feels like a successor to past genre masterworks yet has a unique character of its own.

Balancing the novelty of the premise is one of the oldest themes in drama: a small group of characters confined in a small area, battling one another for control. Naturally, Dad expects authority to default to him, even though his father thinks that's laughable. But Annji is a paramedic - if there has been a disaster outside, might she not have relevant expertise? No way, says Kate - she's probably a terrorist sympathiser anyway. She urges the docile Scott to prove he's a man by intervening with his fists. Mum tries to sing Christmas carols to get everybody back in the proper spirit. But every time it looks like things might settle down (and allow time to think), a new message appears on the television, ostensibly neutral, subtly provocative. How can they risk ignoring it?

Every performance here is note perfect. Moving around the cramped environment of the suburban home, director Johnny Kevorkian conjures up a real sense of creepiness. There's bleak realism behind the comedy, Cruttenden's twitchy performance suggesting that power games in this household are nothing new. The final scenes, anarchic and glorious, will not easily be forgotten.

Reviewed on: 28 Aug 2018
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Await Further Instructions packshot
It's Christmas Day and the Milgram family wake to find a mysterious black substance surrounding their house.

Director: Johnny Kevorkian

Writer: Gavin Williams

Starring: David Bradley, Abigail Cruttenden, Holly Weston, Sam Gittins

Year: 2018

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: UK


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