Overworked care assistant Julie believes marriage is the golden ticket to happiness. Yet the likelihood of her narcissistic boyfriend Jim proposing is beyond remote. As yet another Valentine’s Day looms, all Julie wants is to keep her head down and get through the day. But that’s not going to happen. Impeding Julie’s attempts to simply get through the day are Tracy: her younger colleague, intent on sabotage and with her eye on Jim; and Angie, a grand matriarch with a score to settle.
VALENTINE’S DAY draws out elements from my own life. The story and setting are loosely based on my experience working as a kitchen assistant at a residential home for the elderly in my teens. I encountered many characters there. It was upsetting to see some residents becoming increasingly dependent on the staff. Some residents had no family while others had families that no longer visited. On the other end of the spectrum there were the sharp-witted, acid-tongued, larger-than-life characters full of colourful tales and eccentric wisdom.
And then you have the staff: Angie the cook, nicknamed “The Barnsley Chronicle” for her gossiping. Coleen the senior careworker who was once reprimanded by management for turning up to work in stilettos and white ankle socks. Little fragments of my time spent working at the care home have evolved into these slice of life vignettes in VALENTINE’S DAY. This script was inspired by the scope for comedy and pathos that exists in this unique setting.
All of the women in my family are divorcees, largely due to wandering husbands. The women have always stuck together and raised the family. VALENTINE’S DAY plays on the assumption that women have been socialised by the patriarchy to think there is only one path to take: to find a man and give him all your love and energy. Julie falls victim to this.
With VALENTINE’S DAY I wanted to depict three generations of women with very different perspectives and approaches to life and relationships. Tracy is the minx. She is cunning, flighty and easily bored. She courts male attention and has no loyalty to her fellow sisters.
Julie wants to be desired. She follows the advice of her women’s weeklies on ‘How to Keep a Man’ only for it to backfire. She is overworked, underpaid and unlucky in love. She is led to believe that marriage is the pinnacle of achievement in a woman’s life- the golden ticket to happiness. As another Valentine’s Day comes along, Julie’s goal is simply to get through it- something that many can relate to.
Tracy has no real interest in taking care of residents at Grove House so she amuses herself throughout the working day by tormenting and goading Julie who she regards as pathetic. Even the glamorous, elderly resident Angie is irritated by Julie’s outwardly chirpy nature that appears to mask a deep sadness. As the film progresses we see the tension between Julie and Tracy escalate. Tracy walks muddy footprints over the mopped floor. Later she flaunts her new engagement ring and makes a jibe about old brides aimed at Julie, unmarried and in her 40s. The final straw comes when Julie is humiliated at the party when Jim points out the lipstick on her teeth, as Tracy smirks and continues to flirt outrageously with Julie’s partner.
The matriarchal figure of Angie is inspired by my grandma, a force to be reckoned with. After Angie discovers that Tracy has stolen her necklace, she decides to get even and enlists the help of Julie, who becomes her protégé. Julie’s transformation is evident as she looks on as Tracy follows Jim out of the dining room. Her smile mirrors that of Tracy’s throughout the film. The tables have been turned.
VALENTINE’S DAY is a payback tale. The audience empathises with Julie the underdog, and we’re rooting for her when she eventually takes her revenge.
The theme of sisterhood emerges in the final scene. The message is simple: “Marriage isn’t all its cracked up to be!”
“Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit, because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure”
As a visual storyteller my aesthetic has been strongly influenced by the kitchen sink realism of Alan Clark’s RITA, SUE AND BOB TOO (1987) and the bittersweet tragicomedies of Mike Leigh such as SECRETS AND LIES (1996). What appeals to me is the portrayal of ordinary people.
I am also influenced by the idiosyncratic characters in Alan Bennett’s work, in particular the TALKING HEADS (1988) series and the absurd reversals of fortune in Almodóvar’s films.
- Chris Murdoch
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
Chris Murdoch is a writer, producer and director from Barnsley, South Yorkshire.
He has directed fashion films, music promos, branded content and editorial for clients including ASOS, Dr Martens, Samsung and Red Bull Catwalk Studio. His work has been featured on LOVE Magazine, Dazed Digital, i-D Online, Pitchfork, Juke Magazine, The Young Director Award Blog and Promo News.
In 2016 Chris decided to focus on film, completing a Masters in Digital Film and Television Production at the University of York. His debut short VALENTINE’S DAY, a 17-minute comedy-drama starring Alice Barry and Jean Rogers received the highest grade ever awarded by the Department of Theatre, Film and Television at the University of York.
His style is dark, comic and affectionately satirical.
MEET THE CAST
DEANA HEATON – Julie
Deana is a Manchester-based Actress known for playing archetypal strong female characters that typify the north of England. Most notably, a 4 year recurring stint as a resident 'lady of ill repute' on Channel 4's SHAMELESS, showing a naughty but comical edge to this five foot feisty female. Deana was thrilled to be reunited with "Madame Lillian" (Alice Barry) for VALENTINE’S DAY.
Further credited productions include CORONATION STREET, HOLLYOAKS, SCOTT & BAILEY (recurring) and the Ken Loach film ROUTE IRISH.
A former dancer, Deana spent the best part of two decades based in and touring Italy and Greece respectively. With regular stints on Italian TV variety shows and the Greek serial drama AN M'AGAPAS, she speaks both languages fluently. Deana's first claim to fame is performing weekly dance routines alongside Take That's Jason Orange on the Tv show HIT MAN & HER.
JEAN ROGERS - Angie
Trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Jean is best known as Dolly Skilbeck in EMMERDALE, a part she played for nearly eleven years, with appearances in BBC, Thames and ATV dramas, including three months in CROSSROADS. Her early years were spent in repertory theatre, two seasons at Chichester with Sir Laurence Olivier, and as a founder member of his National Theatre Company.
In 2015, Jean toured with Freedom Studio’s HOME SWEET HOME as Barbra whose husband Ron has early-onset dementia.
In 2016 she wrote and performed MY DEAR MISS TERRY in 2016, a play centering around love letters between Bernard Shaw and Victorian actress Ellen Terry. It will tour this year, including a performance at Ellen Terry’s National Trust home Smallhythe in Kent.
Jean has appeared in over a thousand BBC radio broadcasts, presented LISTEN WITH MOTHER and POETRY CORNER, and played Cosette in LES MISERABLES on the World Service.
SOPHIE SHAD - Tracy
Sophie has worked in film, TV, theatre and Radio from a young age. After making her west end debut at the age of 8, she went onto play principal role of Shona West in BBC drama GRANGE HILL for two years. Sophie trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Most recently she worked opposite Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard in feature film ALLIED.
ALICE BARRY – Bev
Alice grew up in Burnley as the eldest of four children and came to acting late in life, after her son had grown up and left home. Alice has appeared in many acclaimed television programmes such as: CORONATION STREET, HOLLYOAKS, DOCTORS, BENIDORM, PETER KAY’S PHOENIX NIGHTS and most famously as Lillian Tyler, Chatsworth’s local busy-body and brothel Madame, in SHAMELESS.
Alice's sense of humour has been evidenced in her appearances for BBC's COMIC RELIEF appeals when she spoofed the knickerless tennis player in the famous Athena poster and also parodied Mena Suvari's scene in AMERICAN BEAUTY.
DANNY THORNTON - Jim
Wayne "Danny" Thornton is best known for his acting roles these days, but it was in his time as a professional rugby league player with Castleford (1986–90), when he first became accustomed to the spotlight.
His extensive credits list includes films: DREAM’S ASHES (2005 film), THE MANCHESTER PASSION (2006), PLEASE HOLD (2007), FREIGHT (2009), ARTIFICIO CONCEAL (2014). He plays Frank “Bonehead” Benson in the hilarious new feature ROUGH AND READY (2017), due to hit the big screen in Summer 2017. He has also made appearances in soaps including HOLLYOAKS, CORONATION STREET, EMMERDALE, DOCTORS and a number of other popular TV programmes- MERSEYBEAT, FRESH MEAT, SECOND COMING and BOOZE CRUISE to name a few.
MEET THE CREW
HOWARD MILLS – Director of Photography
Howard is a Director Of Photography working on fiction, documentary and commercial films for a number of respected and award winning directors. After graduating in Film and Television Studies from Westminster University he began work as a junior camera operator, notably filming on the BAFTA winning BBC series THE CHOIR. To further study his trade Howard then moved into camera assisting, working on numerous features, dramas and commercials under many talented DOPs including Ben Smithard BSC and Robbie Ryan BSC. Howard's work as Director Of Photography has been screened around the world and nominated for several awards.
MIKE HIGGINS – 1st Assistant Director
With over 35 years in the industry, Mike is an experienced First Assistant Director and Unit Location Manager who has worked on many major films in the UK and overseas. The son of a Stills Photographer, he began his career in the theatre in London's West End before moving over to film production and working as an Assistant Director in all the various grades. He has also directed 2nd Units, as well as devising and teaching short courses in Location Management and Assistant Direction for the N.S.C.T.P at the National Film and Television School, Beaconsfield, U.K.
ALICE KIRKPATRICK – Production Designer
Alice graduated from Central Saint Martins with a degree in Fashion Design with Marketing. During her studies, she worked as the creative assistant and studio manager for fashion designer Gareth Pugh, who’s designs pushed the boundaries of working with fabric by using other materials and often overlapping into sculpture. Her love for working in 3D, partnered with a passion for creating narratives to immerse people in, led to her transition into set design.
Having trained with set designers Gary Card and David White, working on global campaigns, print and film projects, she has now developed her own language in fashion, immersive events and creative design.
Her work has been published in British Vogue, Dazed and Confused, The Gentlewoman, Arena Homme+ and Another Magazine amongst others.
Along side fashion print and film work she is also the production designer for the Theo Adams Company, transforming venues for audiences to become fully immersed within from the moment they walk into the world she has created; often dystopian, nostalgic with a contemporary edge.
SASHA MANZANERO – Editor
Sasha is a North West London based Offline Editor, who specialises in Film Trailers, Short Films and Music Videos.
Sasha is currently working for Empire Design Company Limited, cutting TV Trailers and Radio spots for many well respected films, including HACKSAW RIDGE, which has been nominated for 5 BAFTA's, 3 Golden Globes and 6 Oscar's and GOLD, Winner of Hollywood Film Awards - Ensemble of the Year and Nominated for 1 Golden Globe.
REBECCA GORE – Costume Designer
Rebecca has worked on productions of every scale from Hollywood co productions to Independent British Film, on everything from Period Drama to Comedy and contemporary Thrillers. Rebecca won the award for 'BEST COSTUME DESIGN' for GOD'S ACRE at the International Film Festival, Nice 2016. She has designed many highly acclaimed Feature Films such as BAFTA nominated SHELL, rural drama WRECKERS starring Benedict Cumberbatch and BAFTA Nominated Sci Fi EXAM along with Award winning COHEN BROTHERS short A FEVER IN THE BLOOD. The success of EXAM also gained Rebecca entry for a BAFTA Craft Award for Breakthrough Talent. Though based in London she has worked all over the UK and internationally.
Terry Lee Bennett
Director of Photography
1st Assistant Director
Ryan J. Harrison
Hair and Makeup Designer
Hair & Makeup Artist
Mark van Heusden
Kelly Lopes Horta
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