I love it when the elderly swear. Somehow it reassures me that you don’t have to become a houseplant devoid of personality and passion just because you’re old. And there’s plenty of both in foul-mouthed Flo, the eccentric lead character in Florence Has Left The Building. The 13-min short, a Whitefalk Films production directed by Mirrah Foulkes and produced by Alex White, is a seasonal confection of profanity, alcoholism, old folks and fist fights, but its unorthodox sweetness will creep up on you unannounced and leave you all warm and fuzzy inside.
As the annual Christmas Eve concert at the Marigold House Assisted Living Facility approaches, Florence, an elderly lady with a bad attitude, is determined to escape. When the facility double books two rival Elvis impersonators, Flo seizes the opportunity to flee once and for all. Florence has Left The Building is crude comedy about an unlikely friendship sparked by misery and sealed by a shared desire to survive. It’s funny, fresh, heartwarming and delightfully obscene.
“For a long time I’ve been interested in making a film about ageing and the inevitable mental decline that accompanies it. Out of this, somehow, came Florence Has Left The Building. I think essentially it’s about chance meetings, people swirling around in their own orbits, really driven by what they feel they need at any given time and when they bump together by chance or fate or whatever you want to call it the result is often interesting” – the director explains. And it doesn’t really get more interesting than throwing together a rude old lady, determined to live and die on her own terms, and a washed-out, alcoholic Elvis impersonator, struggling to keep his job.
I absolutely adore this anti-hero duo. The fact that they are as different as they can be, yet exactly what each other needs to survive is a brilliant touch by writer and director Mirrah Foulkes. I also find their fighting spirit incredibly inspiring. As Flo puts it helself, “keep moving forward. Stop moving and you die”. This quote beautifully summarises the film, but it’s also an important reminder to us all to never get comfortable enough to sleepwalk through life, and is there a more important message than this?
If the name Mirrah Foulkes is familiar, you may be a short film super-fan, or, just really well-acquainted with the work of Australia’s Blue-Tongue Collective (which frankly is the same thing)! The home to directors like Nash Edgerton, Spencer Susser & David Michôd, we talked a lot about Blue-Tongue in the early days of Short of the Week as powerful example of a crew using short films and mutual support to break through into the industry in a big way. Foulkes was right there, starring in front of the camera in modern classics like Spider, Crossbow, and Netherland Dwarf.
More recently she’s ventured behind the camera, with a writing credit on the S/W-featured short Eugene, and has a trio of films she’s directed: Florence is the middle film, bracketed by Dumpy Goes to the Big Smoke and Trespass, and this film was the winner of the AACTA in 2015, Australia’s equivalent to Oscar. We stopped talking much about Blue Tongue as the principal directors moved on to feature films, and it seems Foulkes and White will follow the same path. I’d love to know what life has in store for Elvis and Flo, and maybe White and Foulkes will revisit them one day soon, so keep an eye out for it!