Oscar shorts: ‘Love at First Sight’ isn’t just for the young
Any dreariness that comes with old age and its illnesses wasn't something British filmmaker Michael Davies wanted to fixate on when he made his short film now in the running for an Oscar, "Love at First Sight."
"I've been to an awful lot of short-film festivals, and it seemed to me that anytime anyone made a film about older people, they were films that were particularly grim. We in the U.K. seem to like miserable-ist films," said Davies, whose background is primarily in making documentaries.
So he set out to make a positive, humorous love story about two elderly people in a care home. He developed the story with friend Julian Unthank, who wrote the screenplay. "Love at First Sight" stars John Hurt, 71, and Phyllida Law, 79, as a two people who fall in love at their nursing home in the English countryside.
A key to making the film work was finding the right pair of actors who "would be very believable together as a couple," Davies said. Hurt was his first choice for the lead (a continuing supporter of short films, Hurt also starred in another on the Oscar short list), and he chose Law when he learned that the two actors had appeared together in the 2008 Italian film "Lesson 21."
"We didn't have to do anything [to create chemistry] because we'd already met, and, well, we like each other," Hurt said.
Partially funded by the Wellcome Trust, the film was shot in a private home near Pinewood Studios. The proximity to the major British film studio enabled Davies to gather a top-notch crew.
"That's my tip for short-film makers: Set your film next to a good studio," he said.
The location, along with the film's story, was partly inspired by time Davies' grandmother spent at a care home in "a big, rambling old English house," the director said.
"Many of the ideas of scenes in the film came from my memories of the last year of my grandmother's life,” Davies said. "I suppose that would usually lead you down a gloomy path, but it had a completely opposite effect on me. We wanted to make it a happy story."
"Love at First Sight” has picked up awards at festivals including the British Independent Film Festival and the Raindance Film Festival. Once it finishes its festival run, Davies expects to release the film online and on DVD. Watch a scene from "Love at First Sight" below.
–- Emily Rome
Photo: John Hurt and Phyllida Law in "Love at First Sight." Credit: Michael Davies Films / Spellbound Films