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7 Hours on Earth review – schoolkids have fun with alien-meets-Shakespeare comedy

The Guardian logo The Guardian 07/10/2020 Cath Clarke

Attack the Block meets A Midsummer Night’s Dream in this good-natured, charming and energetic comedy made by staff and pupils at Graveney secondary school in Tooting, London. It’s directed by English and film studies teacher Pat Sharpe, who coaxes some fantastic performances from her students, most in front of the camera for the first time; even the teatime telly silliness of some scenes feels endearing.

It’s set in the fictional school of Midsummer High where half a dozen aliens crash land in the headmaster’s office seven hours before the opening night of the school play. (a sixth former at the time of filming) plays sensible headgirl Helen who can’t decide if she likes swotty Dan (Gus Flind-Henry). Her shallow best friend Charlotte (Ramona Marquez) is seeing Louis (Byron Easmon), who falls for Helen. Scriptwriter Steve Smith wittily adapts the suitor-swapping of Shakespeare’s play to fickle teenagers, with the aliens acting as matchmakers. Trapped in human bodies, these infinitely superior beings take pity on the illogical hormonal teenagers and attempt to fix their romantic dramas.

As the extraterrestrials attempt to make sense of their new surroundings the script has some fun. What is this concept of school, one of them asks. Another replies: “It’s where the young of the species are forcibly contained to receive low-grade data that the elders believe will make them functionally effective.”

The film is a seriously impressive achievement by the inspiring teachers and kids at Graveney. Certainly, it’s more professionally made than a fair few low-budget films I’ve seen, though I did wonder whether the English department was consulted about using number “7” in the title, rather than spelling it out as “seven”.

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