Writer: Geoff Thompson
Director: Debbie Anzalone
With pubs one of the industries bearing the brunt of lockdown restrictions this year, it is an interesting time to reflect on our relationship with alcohol. While Thomas Vinterberg’s new film Another Round, due for imminent release, takes an even-handed perspective on the value and dangers of excessive drinking, Geoff Thompson’s 2018 short Three Sacks Full of Hats worries about the effects of alcoholism on one family.
Mick returns home when his alcoholic brother Sid is taken into hospital with liver failure. Shamed by what he sees and troubled by a failure to help Sid, Mick argues with his parents about who is to blame. As the family wait for news, old enmities stir and Mick confronts his father at last.
Thompson’s 17-minute film is poignantly told from Mick’s perspective, avoiding the comedy-implications of extreme drunkenness to focus instead on the medical consequences as it affects the various relationships within this small family. The shock of returning home to find his brother now beyond help and the growing frustration with Dad’s blasé attitude to what appears to be inherited alcoholism are well explored.
Director Debbie Anzalone cuts between the tense family scenarios as the weakened Sid is helped from his home and the various sickbed confrontations without sensationalism, retaining a tight focus on the internal struggles within Mick using close cut reaction shots. These are interspersed with the, somewhat obligatory and rather cliched, scenes of Mick staring out to sea as he contemplates what to do next. Overused in shows like Poldark and Broadchurch these feel superfluous in a film that is brimming with content.
In such a short running time, there are several narrative strands that could be better developed including a meaningful discussion between Mick and Mum to briefly contrast the experience of living in a small seaside town with Mick’s life elsewhere as well as the effect on those left behind. The notion of cultural and social inheritance could also be extended as Dad hints at a childhood for his sons in and around the local pubs that affects them both in different ways.
There is a strong central performance from Warren Brown as Mick who says relatively little but conveys a great deal of meaning and regret as he seeks to understand his brother’s life. Alison Steadman is grounded as Mum, never allowing her grief to cloud her sense of duty while David Sterne suggests more layers to Dad’s semi-permanent inebriation that hint of community, belonging and escape from the day-to-day.
Uploaded to Omeleto this week, Thompson and Anzalone’s brief film seems to have far more to say than perhaps we see but is unstinting in its presentation of the effects of chronic drinking and its consequences for families. With a second lockdown affecting our interactions and the festive season approaching, the point at which drinking becomes a problem is something Three Sacks Full of Hats asks us to be mindful of.
Released on Omeleto on 12 November 2020