Here at Short of the Week, our team of programmers have their own handpicked lists of films they’d love to feature on the site, right at the top of mine was Michael Pearce’s Keeping Up With The Joneses. A short I’ve been eager to feature ever since I first saw it back in 2014, this is filmmaking of the highest quality, with narrative, production and performance working together in perfect harmony to create a gripping, entertaining and inspiring watch.
A dark comedy that follows an MP’s wife as she’s taken hostage by two “very bad people”, Pearce’s film manages to be unsettling and humorous in equal measures. A dialogue-driven short, interspersed with moments of sudden violence and aggression, Keeping Up With The Joneses walks a tonal tightrope, with its director playfully pushing his film to either end of the dark comedy spectrum.
Admitting, in an interview with Aesthetica Short Film Festival, that he gets “tired of films that laboriously wallow in a very narrow emotional tone”, the director choose to keep his film “tonally supple” to ensure his audience stayed hooked throughout and it worked a treat.
Keeping Up With The Joneses is a film that excels in so many departments, it’s difficult (and time consuming) to deconstruct without feeling like you’ve done someone in the cast or crew a disservice by not mentioning them. Adeel Akhtar, Geoff Bell and Maxine Peake are all outstanding as the three leads, the razor-sharp script (by Selina Lim – who has also worked with S/W alums Mustapha Kseibati & Rachna Suri) giving them the perfect lines of dialogue to propel with just the right amount of venom or sorrow.
The film looks great as well. Really great. With Cinematographer Benjamin Kracun consistently finding the perfect frame to let the cast go to town and also highlight the impeccable work of Production Designer Laura Ellis Cricks, Art Director Katie Gormley, Costume Designer Jo Thompson, Set Decorator Candice Marchlewski and the rest Pearce’s talented crew.
Screened at festivals worldwide and nominated for a BAFTA in 2014 (when fellow S/W pick Room 8 won), Keeping Up With The Joneses was Pearce’s third short film after Rite and Madrugada.
Talking to the Guardian earlier in 2018, Pearce revealed he wanted to continue making shorts until he could objectively look at one and think “this person’s strong enough to make a feature now” and looks that happened with this short as the director’s next project was the feature Beast.
Featured at Sundance, TIFF and London film festival and described by film critic Mark Kermode as an “increasingly intense psychological thriller” it sounds like Pearce has translated his directorial talents to a lengthier film project, adding to the ever-increasing list of directors who have made a successful jump from short to feature.