Two Down

Salt beef? Two feckless men attempt to complete a tabloid crossword in an old-school greasy spoon cafe in north east London.

Genre: Comedy

Length: 6:34

Free To View

3 out of 5 stars

Producer/s : Aneet Nijjar, Rolfin Nyhus

Director/s : Rolfin Nyhus, 

Writer/s : Rolfin Nyhus, 

Actor/s : Chris Anderson, Richard Winter


Hymn to the greasy spoon

Guys doing a not very difficult crossword in a greasy spoon café definitely offers up chances for humour. The actors, with their working class demeanours and chirpy east London accents, have clear comic chops. So we’re all set, right? They consider whether “Eastern martial art (4-2)” is Kung-fu, or Kara-te, because karate is actually two words.

And here is this little film’s problem: everything is in place, but the lines are not actually funny, neither is the situation. We all know what makes us laugh, but defining humour per se has taxed the finest minds. Freud tried it, but as Ken Dodd said, he never played the Glasgow Empire. A serviceable definition is that humour comes when incongruous factors meet unexpectedly. There is little incongruous or unexpected here.

It threatens amusement when a lady hipster orders the Mediterranean platter that the café’s owner has clearly never been required to assemble before, but this meeting opposites is not milked. Mispronouncing mangetout doesn’t cut it.

It is a disappointment given the director Rolfin Nyhus’s other recent short, the surreal allegory Hollow Pond. The two films could hardly be more different in ambition or style. Nyhus describes this as a “hymn to the greasy spoon café”, which he loves. Maybe atmosphere was the way to go, not comedy, maybe he should have turned his directorial flair to making us smell the place, and forgotten about the stupid crossword…

The other thing about humour is that it’s notoriously subjective. Two Down has been selected for several film festivals, so some people of taste and discernment have liked it. But to others, it’s four characters in search of a funny script.