During the last twelve months, everybody’s lives have been impacted by the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic, with virtually nothing left untouched by its reach. Things which we all took for granted have either radically altered, or else reached a temporary – and, seemingly, indefinite – hiatus, while the world holds its collective breath, and waits to see what lies around the corner.
That awful phrase ‘the new normal’ has come to sum up the place that we find ourselves in, as the sands shift constantly beneath our feet. Going out to work is, for many, becoming an almost distant memory, with an increasing number of us making homes our new office spaces. Parents have become teachers, as home schooling has become a necessity. Going out to pubs, theatres and cinemas has sadly gone on pause, with families and friends unable to socialise.
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Yet despite all these barriers, we have found ways to help us cope. Seeing a film on the big screen has been supplanted on a short-term basis by using streaming services, with people also arranging watch parties, in order to share that viewing experience. Video calls have become a vital way not only of doing business, but also keeping in touch and connecting to people socially. A rise in online dating, out of necessity, may have seen a shift in how people form relationships.
The entertainment industry is one of many which was hit by the pandemic, as venues have needed to shut their doors and dim their lights, hibernating until things become safer. Film and television productions have needed to come up with new ways of working, in order to ensure casts and crews are being protected. With the usual avenues of employment narrowing or drying up, some people have taken matters into their own hands, and looked to make the best out of a bad situation, in order to keep busy.
Hence the rise of productions like the sitcom Staged, based around the use of video conferencing during lockdown; and the Supermarionation puppet show NEBULA-75, which was devised and put together by professional film & TV industry flatmates, using marionettes and props they had to hand. It has certainly been a period where all the creative industries have been precisely that, finding innovative solutions to still make content while staying active in the process.
The Lennox Report is another such example, a short film put together by the team of Amanda and Steve Bright, which offers a very modern kind of love story. This tale takes place during lockdown, and sees two colleagues – Kayla (Amanda Bright) and Mark (Amit Shah) – being given complete responsibility for putting together a vitally important work document (the titular Lennox Report), after their manager goes off sick. The pair work closely together via a video link, ending up getting to know each other much better in the process.
With Steve as director and Amanda as writer of The Lennox Report, the film takes a look at our current situation, which makes it feel incredibly relatable, and speaks to our shared experience of lockdown life, with the numerous challenges it poses over how we function on a day-to-day basis. Being on the other end of a webcam, with friends and family just on a screen, can sometimes feel like a poor substitute for the real thing; however, it can also be a critical part of helping us stay focused and connected, and The Lennox Report embraces all the positives of this new way of keeping in touch.
As well as dealing with what we are all going through during the pandemic, The Lennox Report also takes time to address the societal and cultural shift felt over the last year, with the increased importance of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the killings by police of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, in addition to the rise in open white supremacy. Amanda Bright’s script deals with this, showing there is still a way to go, but there are signs of hope, and that Black representation and visibility are crucial.
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Given the potentially rather heavy subject matter, the tonal changes are handled well, and do feel organically integrated into the story, rather than being a crunching change of gears in order to ram home a message. The blossoming romance between Kayla and Mark has a wonderful lightness as well as sense of fun to it, and both leads do a great job in making you root for this budding, unconventional, working-from-home ‘office relationship’; the duo are genuinely endearing, and all the tentative steps towards becoming an item are well paced and beautifully played.
The Brights have also managed to assemble an impressive supporting cast, given that all the contributions were made with the actors donating their time and efforts gratis, out of a belief in the project; names like Kerry Howard, Adjoa Andoh and Pearl Mackie give the film an extra lift, with a sprinkling of stardust. The Lennox Report is a heartwarming, thought provoking labour of love, which delivers just the sort of pick-me-up sorely needed at a time like this.