Desperate to save his business from the financial troubles he faces, restaurant owner Declan latches onto a wealthy customer’s story about a violin that could lead him to a fortune in Damien Fowler’s short film I Will Make It Worth Your While.
Maybe it’s a result of inflation and the cost-of-living crisis but it’s fair to say that the wealthy have been given a bit of a rough ride on our screens over the past year. We saw a bunch of them stuck on a yacht, partying their way to oblivion and a best picture Oscar nomination in Triangle of Sadness, Rian Johnson killed a bunch of them in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, while on TV another group had their extra-curricular activities, weaknesses, and sex lives exploited on a tropical resort over the span of a week in Mike White’s glamorously entertaining The White Lotus. Now we have writer-director Damien Fowler’s I Will Make It Worth Your While, in which the middle classes get another bit of a kicking.
Danny Chase plays Declan, an odious restaurant owner whose business is failing. He’s the type of employer who takes out his troubles on his staff and has no qualms about firing them on a whim. The character of Declan is Basil Fawlty-esque – a man trying to find a shortcut into the upper-class system, but unlike Fawlty, he has no redeeming qualities. At first, this seems like an odd choice, considering he will be our main conduit into this world, but it does work and that is due mainly to Danny Chase’s powerful performance. Declan is in financial difficulties and his restaurant is failing, but during this particular evening, he meets some upper-class and posh customers who give him an idea that could just help end his current money troubles and ultimately save his skin. Chase towers over the film with his commanding presence that makes you laugh at his unscrupulous behavior but also makes you want to punch him in the face. For a short film of 12 minutes, there is a decent size supporting cast and, although there is no time to fully develop their characterizations, the actors do an outstanding job with what they have. Christian Jones stands out, managing to give us an angry and confused employee we can all relate to, while Elouise Warboys brings an authentic classy style to her performance as world-renowned classical musician Beatrice Laurent.
In his notes, director Fowler talks about his inspiration being the works of The Safdie Brothers and Vince Gilligan, but what he has actually given us is a comedy-drama more in line with The Coen Brothers and Wes Anderson. We have over-the-top and somewhat surrealist performances matched by visuals from two cinematographers – Kristian Garside and Joe Wright, who use accurately composed and designed shots with precise and very constricted camera movements. I would be interested to know which DOP provided work for which scenes, as a lot of the film takes place using two shots and close-ups, thus giving the audience an opportunity to look into the eyes of the short film’s characters and decide amongst themselves, who they can trust.
Although I Will Make It Worth Your While isn’t breaking any new ground and provides us with an ending that we can see coming a mile off, it is a short film that succeeds in giving us some memorable characters and a restaurant location that seems like a delightful place to visit but, once we are inside, definitely not somewhere we would want to eat at.