Jellyfish And Lobster


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Jellyfish And Lobster
"Despite the use of fantasy, it’s a film that is refreshing in its willingness to engage with reality."

There’s something fundamentally wrong with the public conversation about nursing homes which is hardly ever addressed, and it’s this: it’s all about “Where would I like to put my dear old mum?” and never “Where would I be happy to spend my final days?” Keeping it at a distance like this makes it much easier to ignore problems, and to pretend that those in need of care are not fully human. Yasmin Afifi’s BAFTA-nominated short film is a pertinent reminder that even after the nursing home doors are closed, life carries on.

“I think you’ll like it here,” says the nurse, unpacking Grace’s things. “We have lots of activities.” Grace (Flo Wilson), not one to suffer fools gladly, doesn’t hide her horror at that remark. She’s also plain spoken in response to the nurse holding up her dildo as if it were some kind of contraband. The cancer may have weakened her but she still has sexual needs. At least the nurse doesn’t find her cigarettes, which she smokes in a laundry cupboard, no doubt imparting a suspicious aroma to everybody else’s sheets. It’s there that she meets Mido (Sayed Badreya), who will satisfy some of those needs.

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The title Jellyfish And Lobster refers to a terrible piece of entertainment provided for the residents, but the costumes and associated imagery keep resurfacing throughout. When Grace and Mido make a magical discovery in the basement, it’s not clear how much we’re supposed to take it at face value and how much it functions simply as metaphor, but the effect is both to remind us that the protagonists are the same people they were in youth and to celebrate that rediscovery of ourselves that can occur when we fall in love. Grace may not have long left, and Mido is gradually succumbing to Alzheimer’s disease – something which occasionally works to his advantage – but that’s no reason to abandon the pursuit of happiness.

Jellyfish and lobsters are unusual animals in that they don’t age – they just go on and on until something kills them. There is a risk here that the focus on youth will keep us from appreciating the distinctive forms of beauty that develop with age, but both leads are charismatic enough to make their presence felt and let us see each through the other’s eyes. The frustrations of failing bodies and minds are ably portrayed without being exploitative or spoiling the mood. Despite the use of fantasy, it’s a film that is refreshing in its willingness to engage with reality, not shying away from the unpleasant stuff but recognising it as just another part of the experience of being alive.

Reviewed on: 04 Feb 2024
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Jellyfish And Lobster packshot
Brought together serendipitously in a moment of mischief, two nursing home residents form an unlikely relationship when they make an enchanted discovery.

Director: Yasmin Afifi

Writer: Yasmin Afifi

Starring: Flo Wilson, Sayed Badreya, Sergute Mariam, Shane Afolabi, Horaios Aidoo

Year: 2023

Runtime: 20 minutes

Country: UK


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