Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Food opens with a striking montage, scattered scenes and crisp sound work building to a powerful, stark, title. Stark is apposite, but the real strength is in its construction.

Jonathan van Tulleken's direction is assured, helped by Christian Contreras' script. It is not without its weak spots, nor is it treading ground uncovered by others, but it is a strong and well-executed piece. As part of Channel Four's 2011 Coming Up Scheme, it's got a great cast, good production work from folk like composer Dan Parry, and a fair amount of talent.

Crops have failed. The government has failed. Systems have failed. Humanity is failing, or is at least in short supply. The iconography of dystopia abounds - up to and including Roger Allam, silken-voiced agent of State in V For Vendetta, his stenciled face on every wall. So there is strife. Confrontation builds, Paterson Joseph as an apparatchik comes to meet Allam's 'Alaistar'. First names only in this era of "Call Me Dave".

Fluorescents in a warehouse or similar, maps and cowed-expressions. Ominous tones and stock-market speculation. "English water fills you up". Radio addresses, the language of the past, allegory heavy here. Except, and on and on, and until...

There is a climactic dinner - among those gathered, a chef, and clutched close to him fish. We see one dancing in the credits, but it is not saying too much to say it is misdirection.

It foreshadows well, manages crisp and concise action when it is needed. Tight shots of faces, visceral food noises, protestations and metal on metal. It would be too much to discuss 'the twist', for there are several, flashback after flashback shedding light on what is happening in front of us. The mission becomes more complex, more confusing - unravelling as the business of loyalty is explored. The language is glorious as well, not so much leftovers reheated as new twists on old classics.

Veteran Togo Igawa is watchful, serene. His voice brackets the action, a proverb shedding further light on that which has been seen. Paterson Joseph's experience sees him neatly move between forms of confidence. Laurence Spellman demonstrates an unhinged glee as the movement's chief enforcer, but it's Allam's honeyed Alaistar who binds things together - treacle in a bitter pudding. There is symbology aplenty, borrowed narratives and language.

Some of that borrowing isn't that recent - beyond classics of Sixties science fiction featuring Charlton Heston, there's a certain letter by Swift. That aside, it's nice to see an old trope get a fresh airing. "Hungry men will swallow anything", but in Food it is revenge that will be served. It isn't quite the same level of craft and cunning of a Tinker Or Tailor but there is cleverness aplenty. With plenty of good work throughout and a strong surprise for dessert, Food leaves a pleasant after-taste. Indeed, judging by the quality on display, there is no shame in requesting "More please".

Reviewed on: 10 Dec 2011
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With sustenance running short, people start to look around for new things to eat.

Director: Jonathan van Tulleken

Writer: Christian Contreras

Starring: Laurence Spellman, Nav Sidhu, Paterson Joseph, Roger Allam, Togo Igawa

Year: 2011

Runtime: 15 minutes

Country: UK


EIFF 2011

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