Ben’s mother has just passed away in the hospital in the middle of the night, bringing his sister Sam to the scene.
The two very different siblings have a contentious relationship, which only grows more combative when Ben spirits his mother’s body out of the hospital to enjoy one last visit to Metroland, a local amusement park.
But the visit allows the pair to sift through their shared family history and memories, and eventually they find some common ground — and come together for one last family ride.
Writer-director Benjamin Bee’s offbeat family dramedy mixes a mordantly funny premise with the cinematic language of British naturalism, parlaying them into a gently eccentric yet heartfelt meditation on the bonds of family.
What’s pleasurable about Bee’s short is how, even in the most dramatic of situations, people still remain themselves in all their awkwardness, chattering about minutiae that seems to have no bearing on the situation at hand and being triggered by long-time patterns into petty bickering. Well-written and edited with a unique tempo that feels both drawling and piquante, the storytelling both keeps events and decisions moving forward while allowing for amusing, offbeat moments that build character and relationships.
The dialogue here — like the approach of the entire film — is often gently irreverent, yet there’s a sense of warm affection towards the characters. Ben has the outlines of being a laid-back slacker, and Sam his more neurotic, conscientious counterpart, but neither are lampooned and satirized for their personalities or temperaments. Above all, they are brother and sister, and members of a family, and they’re defined primarily as such.
Actors Daniel-John Williams and Rachel Teate capture both the different personalities and the common ground they have as siblings. They look quite different from each other, but their arguing has the casual familiarity of long-time siblings, and as a result, their back-and-forth is quite sharp and funny in both words and delivery. But both are able to delve into the deeper, more tender feelings and memories that their mother’s death inspires, which helps them bridge their own differences, if only for the occasion.
What works in “Metroland” is that the film eschews the typical build-up to a big emotional moment, therefore avoiding saccharine emotions. Instead, the emotional shifts happen gently, with their own unique rhythm and unfolding — which makes the ending feel all the more earned. Like the rest of the film, the final images are quirky, a little gritty and ultimately heartwarming in its strange, pure evocation of joy.