For a fourteen minute short, including titles and credits, it feels like there’s a lot to I Love Sarah Jane. In that limited time, the film does an impressive job of establishing and making understandable a very unconventional environment, creating an appropriate mood, developing some of its characters well enough that you have some sense of what they’re about as individuals, and providing a fair amount of action. The story is maybe a little thin in the sense of being more a snapshot or brief interlude in these characters’ situation than something with a clear beginning, middle, and end, but heck, that’s true of a lot of feature-length indies.
The extended opening is highly effective and attention-grabbing, as a young boy rides his bike through a residential neighborhood. Except it’s a kind of post-apocalyptic setting, with overturned cars and a general sense of desolation and ruination, and he is armed with a bow and arrows.
It is Britain in the aftermath of some sort of zombie pandemic. The only people left in this particular area where the film takes place are children. They have degenerated into a kind of makeshift survivalist gang that struts around enjoying the lack of adult supervision, and delights in baiting the zombies.
Really their behavior is not much different from that of members of an adolescent street gang, or just youthful slackers in general. When they’re not wandering around feeling their oats and looking for trouble, they’re vegetating on the couch watching TV (all emergency alerts about the zombies).
Meanwhile, in addition to battling zombies, they have real world psychological things going on with them, from one young lad with a crush on a no-nonsense, mouthy girl in shorts, to characters having to deal with the death of their parents. While these elements can have some humor at a certain level just from the incongruousness of their happening in the context of this bizarre zombie world, they also work emotionally if taken straight.
Based just on the subject matter of the film and the fact that it’s a short, one would expect it to be maybe student film level quality, with weak production values, amateurish acting, a simple structure, maybe a cutesy or whimsical style without much depth, etc. But it strikes me as a lot more professional than that.
Not that it gets super deep—again, it’s fourteen minutes—but it doesn’t have a hokey or really simplistic feel to it.
I Love Sarah Jane is surprisingly well done. I would watch a feature length film set in this world with these characters.