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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 04.05.11] movie review news short fantasy



Last year we had a sneak peek, in the form of a trailer, for a short film that was in the works in the UK. Written and directed by Mike Le Han, Mrs. Peppercorn’s Magical Reading Room showed great promise for the director who began his career behind the camera of tv and music videos.

With the film finished and a few festival screenings under his belt, Le Han was kind enough to share the finished film with me and I’m thrilled to report that this is very much the case of a film delivering on the promises of its trailer. Starring Emily Coggin as the young Eloise, it’s the tale of a girl discovering her history. When her mother moves the family to Black Lake, Eloise, an avid reader, comes upon an old bookstore which holds the key to her past.


The story which unfolds in Le Han’s short film is fairly simple, a must when you have limited running time, but it’s the film’s aesthetics that make it stand out. The digital effects are beautiful, the score from Kevin Kliesch is both magical and mysterious and from the opening frame, Le Han creates a dark world where things go bump in the night and mystery lies around every corner. Though it hints at something nasty lurking around the corner, the film sticks to being a story of youthful fantasy and the events which led to Eloise being left alone are easily glossed over for a happy ending. There’s definitely more to the story that Le Han and his writing partner Helen Le Han are leaving out for the forthcoming feature film, but the portion of the story shared here works well as a sweet short film with a touch of creepiness while the ending suggests that there is a lot more of this tale to be told.

I found the film’s happy ending surprising considering the mood of the film and the suggestion, from both the mise en scène and from Mr. and Mrs. Libby (beautifully played by Stephen Boyes and Jane Cox) who take the young girl in and explain the history of the abandoned bookstore, that there’s something unpleasant lurking in the shadows.

I really enjoyed Mrs. Peppercorn’s Magical Reading Room but would have loved to see it on the big screen to fully appreciate its dark beauty. It’s a gorgeous short film which only cements Le Han as a filmmaker to watch.

Keep your eyes open. The short film is currently making its rounds through the festival circuit and it is definitely one to watch.

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