Scented gel pens, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air [USA, 1990-96] and unwrapping what seemed like endless Fruit Winders, while not universal, I’m sure that these fragments of my childhood would be reassuringly familiar to many who grew up in the late nineties.
Lotte Cassidy’s short focuses on her grandmother’s memories, told in no particular order, over a cup of tea. In just under three minutes, the recent graduate and winner of D&AD New Blood Ones to Watch 2020, and the Bronze Frame at Short Focus Film Festival 2020, triumphs in portraying memory’s ability to comfort, unite and, above all, change.
What is instantly striking is the use of fluttering hand-drawn shapes that shimmer and flicker in an ever-changing patchwork of childhood echoes. No image is ever completely still. Cups flick to cats flick to clasped hands. Cassidy almost conceals her visual wit in blink-and-you’ll-miss-them moments (pay particular attention to the fish and chip shop scenes for a delightful split-second of can twirling, hot-footing haddocks).
Not only does this make the film hugely engaging, but it also, paradoxically, captures the memories’ refusals to be captured, whole and in tact. See the shifting colours consistently perforated with the white background – no image is fully complete but remains in motion, constantly evading full clarity.
Sherbet lemons, train conductors, slippers and, of course, cups of tea are the features of this fluctuating format. In one sense, these mundane minutia weave together to make a hugely comforting blanket of familiarity. But one word immediately comes to mind with these recurring images and that is ‘English’ – everything is just so biscuit-dunkingly British; the film almost risks becoming victim to an overly sugary Cath Kidson-esque nostalgia.
However, one gets the feeling that the hard-hitting traumas are not the target here. This is, instead, an affectionate homage to a much loved grandparent. What’s more, the slightest edge of frustration in the conversation about Turkish delight brings the film back from the brink of being too saccharine.
In this short film, Cassidy manages to showcase not only her talents as an illustrator, but also her ability to handle the tricky topic of memory with sensitivity and humour. And who knows? Perhaps in fifty years we’ll all be sipping tea out of Cath Kidson mugs studded with cutesy Will Smith motifs, patterned in pastel with a nostalgic Nike ‘swoosh’.
'Fancy a Cuppa?' was the winner of the Bronze Frame at Short Focus Film Festival 2020 and is available to watch now on FLTV.