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What M did next: Judi Dench tries cyber-flirting in low-budget indie film

Alice Jones' Arts Diary

What’s M to do when the Bond circus rolls out of town? Log on to Facebook in search of a new man, of course.

Judi Dench is following up Skyfall with the lead role in Friend Request Pending, an indie short film in which she plays Mary, a pensioner grappling with a crush on her church choirmaster and the art of cyber-flirting (watch a clip, above). Penny Ryder plays her friend Linda who indulges in a little Poking of her own with Mary’s son, played by Tom Hiddleston.

The 12-minute comedy was shot in Ealing last year for just £5,000. “Neither Judi nor Penny have computers, let alone use social networking, so to them it was like making a film in a foreign language”, says first-time director Chris Foggin, 27, who met Dench when he worked as assistant director on My Week with Marilyn. “In a way it brings an innocence all of its own to the film.”

The film is part of The Joy of Six, a New British Cinema Quarterly showcase of six short films now touring independent cinemas (see nbcq.co.uk for dates). Also on the bill is the directorial debut of The Hour actress Romola Garai. Scrubber, set in Garai’s native West Country, focusses on an obsessive mother who abandons her child one night to have sex with a stranger.

“The genesis of Scrubber lay partly in my own upbringing”, says Garai. “Not in any recognisable way in relation to the narrative or characters, but simply in terms of its setting. For me, ‘Scrubber’ is a story about a woman trapped between her desires and expectations; both hers and others. But mainly I wanted it to be about a place.” Amanda Hale, who acted with Garai in The Crimson Petal and the White, stars.

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