Author’s Note: I contributed financially to this film’s Kickstarter
It’s been so long that I had honestly forgot that I had contributed in the first place all the way back in 2012!
Even though it took him 5 years, it seems that Writer/Director Andrew Harmer and his team have finally done it. They started with a dream and came out (a little late!) with a film. But has the wait been worth it?
Set in a post-apocalyptic 1950s where the world is covered in a toxic gas, The Fitzroy Hotel is a derlict submarine anchored off the coast of Margate.
Bernard is the Hotel’s downtrodden bellboy, constantly at everyone’s beck and call as he desperately tries to resolve the disputes between the hotel’s colourful circle of guests; as well as dealing with his unrequited infatuation with the sultry Sonya.
But the arrival of a Hotel Inspector soon threatens to turn everything Bernard has worked so hard for into utter turmoil.
Opening with an incredibly quirky credit sequence that quickly gives you the backstory to the world, The Fitzroy is quite the delightful example of design and hilarity blending together with confidence in order to create an attention grabbing black comedy.
It’s not often a film can slap you in the face with amazement, but with its production design The Fitroy has absolutely done it. Natalie O’Connor has used every ounce of her merge budget to create a intricate 1950s world filled with colour and elegance. Yes, the sets may be intimate, but the artistry is undeniable.
It’s through such excellent production design that writer/director Andrew Harmer brings his story to life and crafts a film reminiscent of the golden age of British cinema. By carefully taking the comedic moments and infusing them with a trickle of darkness, it’s hard not be be reminded of comedy giants such as The Ladykillers; or even more recent fare such as Four Lions or the works of Wes Anderson.
And like those comedy classics, Harmer and his casting director (Brendan McNamara) bring together a well rounded cast that are almost perfect in their ability to play off each others eccentricities.
Holding the bulk of the film on his shoulders is Cerith Flinn in the role of Bernard. Essentially playing the straight man to everyone else’s spectacularly over-the-top caricature, Bernard is unyielding in his ability to remain upbeat; and Flinn in turn plays this with aplomb.
Though the protagonist, the film makes the choice to not dive deeply into any personal ideals or goals that Bernard might have, instead choosing to define him by his many relationships aboard The Fitzroy, most noticeably with the object of his desires: Sonya (Jan Anderson).
Easily the most engaging relationship throughout the film, Anderson invokes shades of Lady Macbeth in her sly seduction of Bernard. And inspired by her Shakespearean counterpart, she entertainingly ensnares others in her seduction, such as her distasteful landlord (David Schaal) and the snobbish Hotel Inspector (Ken Collard).
The earlier mentioned lavish praise for the design elements also extends to the special effects and cinematography. Filming in such close quarters must have been a great challenge; and yet DOP Ciro Candia seems to have risen to the occasion and used such restrictions to help imbue an extra sense of intimacy into the proceedings.
If anything, the only issue that arose is one of sound when characters are engaging with each other through their gas masks. Unfortunately it was hard not to be reminded of the similar issues suffered by the masked Bane in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.
While the filming isn’t perfect, The Fitzroy is nonetheless an eye-popping and entertaining apocalypse movie that gives credence to the idea that an independent film can easily stand against those of a more Hollywood-like scope.
The Fitzroy is currently on the festival circuit and will be on general release in 2018