Being an Aussie, I've seen a lot of British TV in my time. This means I'm very familiar with a lot of TV actresses just about no-one else has ever heard of, save for the other fans of these shows. By no means unpopular, they can get lost in the shuffle when the years pass, new programs come along, and one of the bigger markets (America) has zero export of them.
As for the actresses, many had pretty small careers after their turn on tv. Some never acted on screen again. IMDb pages aren't always comprehensive though, and may not necessarily reflect their stage careers, or other avenues like audiobooks. While some actresses like Felicity Jones manage to break through to the big time (and really America, you took your time, didn't you? Almost 20 years late, then you boast how you 'discovered' this amazing talent?!), others have a smaller but still reasonably healthy filmography.
Today I'll be discussing Francesca Isherwood. Most known for playing bitchy antagonistic foil Beladonna Bindweed in The New Worst Witch (from 2005-07), I found her so annoying when I watched as a kid, because she did such a good job at making her character unlikeable (coupled with scripts that rarely saw her character punished). Soon after though I caught her on another series, Roman Mysteries, where she played the lead. I was surprised how likeable she now was, and I took note of her talents. Since then she doesn't seem to have acted much on the screen, mainly preferring theatre work, but has occasionally returned, such as for the short film The Smiling Portrait...
A barman is winding things down for the night when he notices a strange portrait sitting by a chair-Of a woman in a deep wilderness. He looks at it with mild interest, then turns away. To his confusion the figure is now closer. Each look away brings this sinister woman nearer and nearer, all the while a grin is plastered on her face...
The Smiling Portrait is a neat horror story! It's a well-trodden area, but it all depends on the execution, and here it's great. The film is only 3 minutes long, and while this does feel too short in the sense that you want it to be longer and get more enjoyment, it never feels deficient. It sets everything up and gets the ball rolling perfectly in the scant runtime,
In such a small span The Smiling Portrait contains plenty of mystery. What is this painting? Who is the ghost? What does she want and why? And most intriguingly, who exactly left the portrait here in the first place? Questions like this could play into an intriguing larger story, but are also effective when left unexplained.
The direction by Eliad Lienhardt is good! The scares are presented effectively, from the overt to the subtle.
The actors do well in their parts. Jeremiah O'Connor is good as the tired then scared barman, and Alex Francis is fine as a friendly patron. The real star is Francesca Isherwood. With no dialogue and the least amount of screentime, she makes a great impression. Creepy, distinct, and memorable. It's a delight seeing her in a role like this!
The music is fairly obvious horror stuff, which isn't to be taken as a negative here.
The Smiling Portrait is a neat little movie. Available to watch on youtube, it's worth checking out, and certainly won't waste any time...