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Three-Minute Wonder (2001)

British Film Institute

Main image of Three-Minute Wonder (2001)
35mm, colour, 3 mins
DirectorLucy Baldwyn
Production CompaniesDan Films, bfi Production, Film Four
ProducerPaula Cuddy
ScriptLucy Baldwyn
PhotographyStephen Blackman
MusicPhilip Jeck

Natalie Dew (Ruth); Victoria O'Donnell (Mandy); Rosie Wiggins (Kate)

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Three girls swimming at a deserted lido come up with a dangerous game.

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Lucy Baldwyn's oddly unsettling short film (made for the bfi/Film Four Lab's New Directors scheme) crams a lot into its three minutes. Essentially, it's about the relative nature of time, both in terms of the way Kate, Mandy and Ruth experience it very differently (Kate and Mandy bored and looking for distractions, Ruth literally immersed in a world of her own), and the way three girls of similar ages develop at different rates.

Kate unselfconsciously combines swimming goggles with teeth braces to create an indelibly gawky impression, while Mandy opts for coquettish pink heart-shaped sunglasses in an unmistakable echo of Sue Lyon's 'nymphet' in the film version of Lolita (d. Stanley Kubrick, 1961). Kate is more nervous about impending adulthood, overreacting at the slightest sexual gesture, while Mandy appears more sophisticated and knowing, though their exchange about "feeling sexy" betrays their mutual ignorance.

It's clear from the half-smile on Ruth's face that she's well out of it - if Kate's clearly envious anecdote is to be believed, she has few problems attracting the opposite sex and her decision to cut herself off from her friends may well be symptomatic of a desire to break free from them altogether and seek refuge in her own private fantasies. As Baldwyn put it, Ruth is "just killing time until she's old enough to do something else" - though Kate's sudden intervention at the end reveals all too graphically that this can't be sustained for long.

Michael Brooke

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Complete film (3:20)
Production stills