Synopsis: “When Englishness is the only choice left on the menu, it’s breakfast for one in this dark, comic monologue for film about loneliness, mental health, disenfranchisement and surviving off the unappetizing remnants of English Identity”
This award-winning dark comedic monologue addresses the problematic English identity and what happens to those who refuse to move with the times. Full English is highlighted by Women X for its fantastic poetic screenplay from Emily Carlton, alongside its outstanding performance from her mother Caroline Wildi. Both Wildi and Parham, the director, have a background in theatre which is an influence that lends itself perfectly to the extremity of this character study, and is what made it such a memorable short for me.
The scene is set in an English costal town B&B. Standing prim and proper in the dining room that is decked out with union jack bunting and fine china, we are introduced to Gwen. She seems polite enough, until she viciously comments on how the chef barely speaks a word of English. It then becomes clear that the term Full English is not in referral to the food but is analogous of her nationalistic views. She isn’t a waitress obsessed with serving the perfect fried breakfast, she is a woman obsessed with the idea of the ‘traditional’ English identity. She rants about loyalty and valuing tradition, and how she likes to be with her “own”. A jump cut ties this in with the repeated phrase “Full English”.
Gwen is a dark character whose xenophobia has repelled any customers, visually portrayed by the desolate English costal town and its dying B&B trade. As the short progresses it is clear that the unresponsive diners that she is performing her monologue to are nothing but visual representations of the guests she once had, and we are inside Gwen’s dystopian mind; a fantastic theatrically inspired technique that echoes the presence of an audience. With repeating images and dialogue, the award-winning cyclical editing not only emphasizes her madness but how she is stuck in her ways. This scene is interjected with jarring shots of her years later, disheveled and alone, still sitting in the same room and repeating the same words. Gwen refuses to accept change and maintains that ‘Englishness is the only choice left on the menu’, clinging to an extremely problematic identity that is rooted in a dark colonial past. Her Englishness does not accommodate for anything other than her “own”, and as a result the curtains close on her in her empty B&B, hunched over her breakfast, eating ‘the unappetising remnants of English identity’ every day.
This is a well-executed short that not only focuses on Gwen’s isolation, but what has pushed her to this. Carlton explores the concept of the ‘Full English’ and how this exclusionary view of Englishness is dying out. Full English is a perfect example of why women writers and filmmakers such as Emily Carlton should be highlighted.