Back at Tribeca 2014, a quirky Irish short film featuring a man obsessed with winning the scratch off lottery made our best of the festival list. Daniel called it, “somewhere between Clerks and the dark comedies of Martin McDonagh,” and there’s really no better description than that.
Obviously the gas station setting is a big cultural cue for those of us who fell in love with Kevin Smith’s black and white, existentially angsty indie, but instead of crass set ups and attitudes, Scratch features a dry comedy laced into an absurd story. The two leads are still lovable slackers with romantic issues, but now they’re facing a shotgun that might be fake, a lottery ticket that might be a winner and a robber that they probably know. Small towns make bandit masks meaningless.
All of it flows with a nice sitcom sensibility that allows something that might normally be played for trauma with a shrug of ridiculousness. It’s also shot well, always finding new angles despite the enclosed space. We get to hide around aisles, witness mental breakdowns from a safe distance and avoid feeling confined. It may seem small, but the camera opening up the area gives the comedy some room to breathe. Static, claustrophobic shots would have made this tonally far different.
Fortunately, the end result of Philip Kelly’s short film is an odd laugh factory built in the middle of a gas station heist.