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The Short & Curlies (1988)

A short comedy by Mike Leigh about the romance between a young woman and a man who communicates only through jokes and humor. The story is told as a series of very short vignettes between ... See full summary »


Mike Leigh


Mike Leigh

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Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
Alison Steadman ... Betty
Sylvestra Le Touzel ... Joy
David Thewlis ... Clive
Wendy Nottingham Wendy Nottingham ... Charlene


A short comedy by Mike Leigh about the romance between a young woman and a man who communicates only through jokes and humor. The story is told as a series of very short vignettes between her and the man and her and her doting mother, a hairdresser. Written by Sean V. Taylor <st52@cornell.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis









Release Date:

December 1988 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

The Short & Curlies See more »

Filming Locations:

London, England, UK

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This short film is featured on the Criterion Collection DVD for Naked (1993). See more »


Edited into Cinema16: British Short Films (2003) See more »

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User Reviews

A typically Leigh short film – plot light but very realistic and downbeat in its portrayal of 'normal' people
10 July 2004 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

Joy works in a chemists and gets to know Clive as he comes in for various things – their relationship develop even though she seems to be having different conversations from him, as he is always just making bad jokes. Joy gets her hair done by Betty in the local hairdressers; Betty cannot stop talking for a second, even when she goes home to her daughter Charlene.

Best known as the title of a series of short films commissioned by channel 4, this film was the one that started the series and gave it its name, this is a short example of Mike Leigh's usual kitchen sink realism with grubby lives, mired in the drudgery of day to day nonsense. The plot here is pretty much by the by, although there is a general flow involving Joy and Clive's relationship and Charlene's feeling of being trapped. The latter is more important to the film as it is more of a theme than a piece of plot and the film does this well – delivering a downbeat but realistic look at the lives of people who, well, people who are normal. Leigh does this very well and the film is sobering and comic in just how recognisable it is to many of us who live in Britain.

The characters are where it's at and they are awful people but not exaggerated ones. Clive reminds me of me a bit – unable to stop trying to keep himself behind a shield of 'lines', Joy who tries to just keep plodding along, Charlene who knows there must be something better than this and Betty who is the type of woman who never stops talking long enough to notice just how empty her life is! As such it works because it feels like we have been allowed to see into a few real lives – but I imagine it will annoy those who need a definite plot or who don't like Leigh's style. The cast do well with this and each delivers their characters well. Steadman grates like anything and is the sort of person I would cross the road to avoid; an early role for Thewlis is great but annoying and both Le Touzel and Nottingham both just grind out their lives in a believable way.

Overall a great little short film that is typical of Leigh. It is realistic and downbeat even if the plot is not what you want if you're after a traditional narrative. Well worth a look for fans though.

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