GUIN AND THE DRAGON

PrintE-mail Written by J. R. Southall

TV REVIEW: GUIN AND THE DRAGON / DIRECTOR: OLIVER SMYTH / SCREENPLAY: ANDREW MCCALDON / STARRING: ISABELLE ALLEN, LOUISE JAMESON, GARETH HALE, TOMMY KEELING / AVAILABLE ON BBC iPLAYER UNTIL FEBRUARY 5TH

A fifteen-minute short as part of the BBC’s Message in a Bottle strand, Guin and the Dragon will have been missed by most viewers due to its early hours time slot (although there’s a welcome repeat on Thursday 15th January at 5:45am on BBC2); however, there are two reasons why it might have piqued the interest of STARBURST readers. The first is the way it portrays its fantasy setting; the Arthurian backdrop might be only in the mind of eleven-year-old Guin, but it is nevertheless realised on-screen in rather delightful fashion, especially taking into account the minuscule budget the producers of this were doubtless given to play with. The second is the overall Children’s Film Foundation feel to the production; the largely all-child cast (with two notable and very worthwhile exceptions) playing out a surprisingly grown-up metaphorical tale is something the 1970s shorts were well known for, and Guin and the Dragon is reminiscent of those glorious films both in its subject matter and its visual appearance. It might have been produced this last year on HD video and with all modern cons, but Oliver Smyth’s film has a wonderful timeless quality that is deserving of a larger audience.

This is the story of a rather self-possessed young girl who, having recently relocated to a rather daunting housing estate, finds it hard to integrate herself with the rest of the local kids – particularly on account of not owning a bicycle (mind you, as we discover, owning a bicycle can be a pretty perilous thing) – and who retreats into a fantasy world that is in more ways than expected informed by her surroundings. It isn’t long before an incident occurs that forces Guin to push herself beyond what she thought herself capable of, and ultimately to prove herself in the eyes of the estate kids. Along the way we discover that appearances can be deceiving, and that it is within all of us to act “bravely”, mostly because in order to do so we simply need to accept our place in the world, rather than allowing that world to unsettle us.

What marks Guin and the Dragon out from countless other short educational films is its attention to detail. On the one hand, this involves a number of authorial conceits (the Dragon Lady’s fiery breath; the creation of Excalibur) that might be expected, but the lightness of touch with which the production immerses you in Guin’s world is deceptive and engaging. The one criticism might be that we don’t spend enough time with the other children, although this is a function of seeing the story from Guin’s perspective and makes sense in the circumstances.

As usual with this sort of film, it’s all about the lessons to be learned, but they’re presented in a logical and subtle fashion rather than being hammered home, and at just a quarter of an hour long, this is well worth seeking out before it disappears from the iPlayer.

To check the film out for yourself, you can find it available here for the next few weeks.
 

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