Harry Potter star David Bradley hopes to highlight society's lonely millions in 'Roy'

The film focuses on loneliness and the need for someone, anyone, to talk to, as Arts Editor Nina Nannar reports

How many of us have tried and failed to get elderly parents online? I know I have, but I rapidly gave up with Mum.

We had a job getting renowned actor David Bradley on Zoom today - it worked in the end but the 79-year-old was frank, telling us it’s like a different language for him and he’s lucky he has family around to assist. An increasing number of older people don’t. Statistics from The Campaign To End Loneliness say more than half of those aged 85 and over live alone, and the number of over-50s experiencing loneliness is set to have increased by nearly 50% in a decade. Lockdown has increased the sense of isolation for many who have no one with them in the house and no way of connecting online. That loneliness is the theme of a new short film starring David Bradley, known to millions as Argus Filch in the Harry Potter films. Here he plays the eponymous Roy, a man who works his way through the phone book, seeking someone to simply have a conversation with.

Roy ends up connecting with Cara, played by Oscar winner Rachel Shenton, who works on an adult chat line. An unlikely friendship ensues, making for a story that is both poignant and funny. The film, directed by Tom Berkeley and Ross White, also makes a point that is very much an issue for our times. Both Bradley and Rachel Shenton are hoping Roy makes us stop and think about ways we can reach out to the lonely millions. Shenton’s short film The Silent Child about the isolation felt by deaf children, was of course an Oscar winner in 2018.

She is a great fan of the shorter film format in its power to pack a punch in telling a story.

The actress has worked at keeping the issues of deafness and the resulting isolation in the headlines, with some success, but she confesses change is not coming as quickly as she had hoped.

However, with current moves to give British Sign Language legal recognition - a Private Members Bill is currently working its way through Parliament - she is optimistic about the renewed momentum.

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The short film genre appears to be experiencing a boom time. Films like The Silent Child and Roy may be less than 20 minutes, but it means that every moment has to count towards imparting a message and entertaining the viewer. Roy is in the running for a Bafta award, that profile will help, but for the filmmakers, highlighting an issue for our times will be just as gratifying.