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In Short, Europe: Loving Encounters review – a festival of the springy and succinct

Small and mostly sweet, this film selection buoys us up in the wake of the pandemic with an upbeat view of relationships

Just as many of us grasped for connections during lockdown, the pandemic has inspired Eunic London, an umbrella organisation for EU cultural institutions, to dwell on the meaning of relationships for this year’s showcase for European short films, put together by curator Shira Macleod. Not all are – as the strand’s subtitle would have it – loving encounters: break-ups, bureaucratic frustration and unsettling alien fauna crop up, too. And the one explicitly Covid-related work, Romanian director Alina Manolache’s mesmerising I Am Here, features relationships by their absence: the social vacuum on display in CCTV footage from the Trevi Fountain, Chinese pharmacies, a British golf course and other depopulated locations around the world.

Relationships take a politicised shade in Alexandra Matheou’s A Summer Place, a lush dalliance between a Cypriot food artist and the Arab refugee she rescues from the sea. But its Paolo Sorrentino-esque scenes of excess draw the lines between European haves and outsider have-nots somewhat heavy-handedly. More subtle on the immigration beat is the forlorn black-and-white drama Beyond Is the Day, from Poland’s Damian Kocur, which turns an out-of-the-way river barge into an intercontinental metaphor.

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