12 HOUR SHIFT is the latest film from writer/director/actor Brea Grant (Best Friends Forever) which centers around a series of unfortunate events that take place during a nurse’s 12-hour shift. The film stars Angela Bettis (May), Chloe Farnworth (Departure), Nikea Gamby-Turner (Colombiana), David Arquette (Scream), Kit Williamson (Mad Men) and WWE’s Mick Foley.
To best describe the film, I’ll turn to the official Fantasia synopsis: “It’s the late 90s. Arkansas. Nurse Mandy (Bettis) is staring down a double shift at a hospital she’d rather be nowhere near. But she needs to go in. For one, because she’s an addict, and the extra pay will go a long way. More importantly, she needs to go because it’s the hospital work that funds her habit – largely via an organ harvesting side-gig that she’s managed to carve out for herself. Tonight will be especially taxing for her. Because people are complicated. And she’s going to be stuck dealing with many of them. Situations will spiral out of control through an ascension of grisly happenings, unfortunate twists of fate, and terrible, terrible choices.”
To say I adored this film would be a complete understatement. In its short run time of only 86 minutes, 12 HOUR SHIFT managed to make me laugh at the ridiculous antics of our characters while playfully cringing at the more gruesome scenes. But even more so than that, 12 HOUR SHIFT is a fully realized story that tackles the themes of addiction with a female anti-hero at its helm. It’s a dark comedy-thriller that, for me, brilliantly executed its vision while making sure to not pander to its audience.
On the surface, Nurse Mandy isn’t a very likeable person. She’s rough around the edges, distant, and has a “Fuck You” attitude towards those around her. When she’s not snatching high-grade pharmaceutical drugs from her patients to help assist in her drug habit, she’s in cohorts with fellow co-worker Karen (Gamby-Turner) in running an organ harvesting scheme. It’s here that we meet Mandy’s cousin, Regina (Farnworth), a ditzy, blonde-headed organ runner that sets into motion a slew of events that catapults Mandy’s shift into chaos and mayhem. I’m sure you’re wondering what could possibly go wrong and the answer to that is everything as the film also features a deranged killer (Arquette), a goofy cop (Williamson), and a blast from Mandy’s past that triggers memories of how she got where she is.
Besides the fact that this film will have many people reeling from laughter, it also deals with the serious topic of addiction. I appreciated that the film wasn’t a giant PSA for drug abuse, instead, Grant weaved the theme into the story without having to shout from the rooftops the dangers of addiction. Having read Grant’s director’s statement for the film, it was important for her to not only show a flawed female lead that we want to root for but also a look into opioid addiction as well as the harsh reality of hospital life and working conditions for nurses. Though there are a lot of light-hearted moments throughout, it’s the underlying themes that truly shine. This goes to show that Grant knows how to fully execute a compelling, hilarious and tragic story that will resonate with her audience.
Alongside Grant’s directing, the cast did an outstanding job bringing her story to life. Angela Bettis is captivating as Nurse Mandy, embodying a character that is emotionally “damaged” and dysfunctional but giving her enough humanity resulting in an emotional pull I was not expecting. Chloe Farnworth is unbelievably hysterical as Regina and brought the “blonde bimbo” trope to a whole new level. Regina and Mandy’s interactions throughout the film were some of the best moments, which is saying something considering the entire film is entertaining from start to finish. Though there are a few big names in the film, such as David Arquette and Mick Foley, they are used more as secondary characters so as to allow the main actors the ability to shine without being overlooked by their performances.
In all, 12 HOUR SHIFT is a film that is more than meets the eye. It’ll make you laugh but it’ll also give you insight into the world of nursing and addiction in a way that is grounded in reality. This is one of those rare films in which all the elements end up working to the film’s advantage, even the musical number doesn’t feel out of place. It’s a movie that’ll have you cheering for the unlikeliest of characters and I can only hope we will see more from this world in the future. Actually, I need Grant to continue with another film so that I know what happens during the end credit scene! All that being said, 12 HOUR SHIFT is one of the best films I’ve seen so far during the Fantasia Film Festival so be on the lookout for when it arrives in theaters and On Demand, October 2, 2020.
12 HOUR SHIFT had its world premiere at the digital edition of Fantasia International Film Festival on August 22, 2020.