‘If you’re not with us, you’re against us.’
That’s the recognisable battle cry running through the narrative of Nick – the latest short movie out of Manchester-based independent studio Jack The Lad Films, shot in town on a shoestring budget over three days.
United passion can occasionally manifest itself in ugly ways, and in this wicked 15-minute thriller, a bewildered couple inadvertently wander into a gig and encounter the intimidating power of mob mentality first-hand.
Nick opens with a couple waiting for their friends stood outside a scuzzy building. Just as they’re wondering if they’re in the right place, their buddies arrive and the pair are enthusiastically ushered inside to see a performer they’ve heard so much about: a man who simply goes by Nick.
The couple quickly realise it’s not their scene. Taking centre stage adorned in Texan Sheriff-like getup with a guitar underarm, Nick addresses his audience in a calm, somewhat cryptic tone.
His parlance doesn’t seem particularly visionary, profound or insightful, yet his followers gaze up at him with adoring, unblinking eyes, disconcertingly enraptured by his every word.
Contrarily, the couple are left huffing and puffing impatiently in their seats. Only when a fellow audience member detects a whiff of their dissatisfaction does the gig turn from strange to sinister, leaving the pair trapped in a pressure bubble fit to burst with accusing, pointing fingers.
Nick offers a palpable depiction of a relatable scenario: we’ve all experienced that uncomfortable sensation when we’re stuck somewhere we don’t fit in.
But there’s being a fish out of water, and there’s being an unwelcome outsider. Amid a personality cult, any refusal to embrace the ideology at large is at best offensive, and at worst a moral wrong.
Directed with dexterity and discipline by Jack Levy (with strong performances from John Tueart, Helen Lewis and Jack Pybus in the lead roles), Nick is equal parts unnerving and darkly witty, packing a punch that long outlives its ephemeral running length and defies its shoestring budget.
Like a good thriller should, it lingers long after the credits roll, too – bringing whole new meaning to the phrase “having a good time”.
Just wait for that final snatch of dialogue. You’ll never regard this familiar link of words in quite the same way again.
— Jack The Lad Films (@JackTheLadFilms) May 14, 2017