A nighttime security guard is intrigued by the office cleaner who works in the building opposite him every night. Shy and not a native English speaker, he finds a unique way to catch her attention and communicate with her.
But when his employer catches him on CCTV and his job is on the line, he must find a way to continue his courtship of the unassuming cleaner — which might mean taking the next step and meeting up with her in person.
Written and directed by Ed Wiles, this romantic comedy short is almost entirely dialogue-free. But there’s no lack of charm or interest in the storytelling, as the film charts the attraction and growing affection between two late-shift workers, aided by well-deployed special effects, an effervescent musical score and charmingly understated performances by its two lead actors.
Part of the film’s singular appeal is its exploration of a hidden side of a city when the bustle has receded and the busy centers slow down. Yet these streets and plazas are still populated by the late-night, often immigrant, workers, who float in and out of the spectral buildings as guards, cleaners or attendants of sorts, preparing the companies and businesses housed in these buildings for the next day’s hustle. Late-night urban iconography can often be melancholy or spooky, but here it’s given a sense of promise and possibility, with the cinematography focusing on how the lights of the high-rises and skyscrapers illuminate the cityscape with uniquely modern beauty.
The guard — played by actor Femi Oyeniran — uses these lights in a clever, striking way to communicate with his crush, played by actor Sheena Bhattessa. He takes advantage of the distance and scale of the city street to make a bold statement to her, all without having to speak. When they connect, it’s a delightful development for both character and view, and the mutual spark enlivens the long nights for both the guard and the cleaner.
Of course, one omnipresent feature of many major cities are the surveillance cameras lurking everywhere, and their constant gaze gets the guard in trouble at work. Unable to continue with his particular way of communication with his would-be paramour, he gives one final message to move his romantic suit forward — one that offers a warm and pleasant surprise for both parties and tops this lovely urban fairytale with a spark and a smile. Well-paced, confidently appealing and a delight from beginning to end, “City Lights” ends where it started, proving attraction is a mutually pleasing private language between two people, even when expressed in the most public of places.
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A security guard flirts with a cleaner in the opposite tower in an unconventional way. | City Lights
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