Kayleigh and Ant are two impressionable kids who live on a council estate, hanging out and killing time. They trade player cards and are desperate to seem older and cooler than they are. With not much else to do, they decide one day to try to buy a pack of cigarettes, just like they’ve seen the older, cooler kids do.
They manage to rope in an older teen to get their cigarettes, and are willing to trade their precious and rare shiny gold player card to get it. They then put one over on their hapless “college boy,” making off with the fabled pack of contraband without giving up their card. But when they’re put in their place, their better instincts come to the fore, and they prove that despite their posturing, they’re still just kids in the end.
Exuberant, fun-loving and mischievous, this short comedy — directed by Paul Holbrook with a script co-written with Graeme Willetts — is an ode to the spirit of restless, rebellious and very rude youth, as they explore the larger world and get into all sorts of hijinks. With a punky spirit and loads of energy, its style and panache bubble up into an ultimately sweet story of kids who can’t help but be kids, despite all their efforts to the contrary.
The filmmaking itself is possessed of the spirit of saucy naughtiness, full of movement, music and energy and captured in vibrant, brightly vivid cinematography and a free-wheeling editing style. The soundtrack is influenced by reggae, dub and hip hop, which carries the action with a current of energy, following the misadventures of a pair of would-be juvenile delinquents.
Of course, Kayleigh and her sidekick are still kids, and the humor in the film comes from their interpretation of what being older looks and sounds like versus how it works for them in real life. They’re desperate to be grown-up, but they have few resources to go about it, except for their much-valued shiny gold football card. Their dialogue crackles with their hilarious attempts to sound tough and cool, but what’s also funny is how the writing captures the acidic, profane way the grownups talk to Kayley and Ant. (They learned it from somewhere, right?)
The performance of the small trio of young actors — Katie Francis, Caleb Stevens and Toby Wright — are all natural, lively and true to their characters. (All are also non-actors cast from the housing estate of the film’s setting.) Kayleigh, as the leader and mastermind, has charisma, ideas and spark, and a natural sense of leadership. She has enough initiative and audacity to take over the world when she’s older. But being young, she deploys her talents in the only arena available to her: the corner shop. Luckily, as they discover that there’s no rushing getting older, she and her friends learn to accept where they’re at — and enjoy being a kid just a bit longer.
For any adult who laments that “kids never go outside anymore,” “Shiney” is a gleefully irreverent riposte to that perhaps overly simplistic admonition. The narrative captures the exhilaration and frustration of learning to flex your independence and make a mark on the world. Sure, Kayleigh and company may pick a dodgy aim as their first steps into getting older and cooler. But the wisdom of discernment happens with more years, more experience… and learning to enjoy where you’re at in life, no matter what the stage.