Nut Cracker - screenplay

Tommy, 11, lives with his father, Jack, recently paralyzed after a car accident. Tommy's mom has disappeared from their lives and Jack is struggling to come to terms with not only his new disability, but also being a responsible father

  • Alexandra Billington
  • Project Type:
    Screenplay, Short Script
  • Number of Pages:
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Language:
  • First-time Screenwriter:
  • Student Project:
  • Paris Play Film Festival - 2021
    Paris, France
    November 30, 2021
    Winner - Best Screenplay (Short)
  • India Film Festival - 2021
    Mumbai, India
    October 30, 2021
    Best Short
  • London International Film Festival - 2021
    London, England
    October 21, 2021
    Winner - Best Student Film
  • Prague International Film Festival - 2021
    Prague, Czech Republic
    April 12, 2021
    Winner - Best First Time Short
  • Spain International Film Festival - 2021
    Madrid, Spain
    November 30, 2021
    Winner - Best Student Film
  • Global Independent Film Awards - 2017
    Los Angeles, CA
    February 12, 2017
    Winner - Award of Excellence -Best Screenplay
    New Brunswick, CA
    December 10, 2016
    Award of Excellence
  • Southern Shorts Awards - 2016
    Rosewell, GA
    October 15, 2016
    Winner - Award of Merit - Screenwriting
  • Global Shorts - 2016
    Los Angeles, CA
    October 31, 2016
    Award of Excellence
  • PAGE International Screenwriting Awards - 2004
    Los Angeles, CA
    October 15, 2004
    Nominee Finalist - Best Drama Screenplay
Writer Biography - Alexandra Billington

Alexandra Billington is an award-winning British-Australian screenwriter and producer for film and television. Formerly a producer and writer working with channels such as MTV, Paramount, Showtime, the Movie Channel, etc..., Alexandra's focus is on emotionally-driven character-driven stories featuring international talent. She is in development with features and a TV drama series.

Add Writer Biography
Writer Statement


Nut Cracker’s main theme is love, and the ways love can become a force unto itself; one that can overcome every and any obstacle, our highest calling as a a human being.

I wanted to explore a story about two characters who are in a difficult situation; there’s no easy way they can walk away from each other, and emotionally they are forced to find a way to come to terms with both their situation, and each other, through their love for one other.

I wanted to delve into a child-adult relationship rather than a romantic one, as that’s a far more difficult situation to get out of (for the adult), a moral minefield and also a more fragile and sensitive relationship as a child is as trusting as he/she is dependent and needy. Expectations of good behavior are more intense, more important and more life altering (for the child) than in a purely romantic relationship or a marriage.

Jack, a freedom-loving, irresponsible rogue, needed to be ‘pinned down’ in some literal way, so he can’t resort to his usual escape routes of going out, drinking and evading any kind of responsibility.. this is where the idea of having him recently disabled came from (a result of his own behavior patterns) in addition to his wife having left, leaving his young son totally
dependent on him. This is all new and very scary territory for Jack… Tommy may be eight, but until now, Jack’s not really taken part in Tommy’s upbringing – physically or emotionally - and this, added to the fact that Jack, in one fell swoop, is no longer the man he used to be, sees himself in a situation where he’s not sure he can even survive, let alone excel in any way. But if Jack doesn’t survive, neither will Tommy. Jack knows this and the stakes become painfully higher.

The story is told from both Jack’s and Tommy’s perspectives.. and both are on a journey to survive a difficult situation and the one thing that gives them the strength to battle on is their raw love for each other.

Smaller details explore the way these two show their love for each other; Tommy wanting Jack to eat healthy foods, a subtle way of wanting him to change his ways and live a healthier (and longer!) life. And for Jack, putting on a brave face for his son so as not to cause him anxiety.

By societies standards, and perhaps in all reality, by Jack and Tommy’s own standards, their life together is more winging it day to day rather than following more traditional patterns of parenting. Tommy’s feeling the burden of knowing (subconsciously) that his dad’s not coping, and Jack’s bravado isn’t fooling anyone – least of all Tommy who is wise beyond his young years.

In terms of the way story structure explores and supports character growth; when Jack meets Ange and sees the way his new status as ‘disabled’ has turned her off Jack as a prospective lover, Jack, painful though it is, must accept that his idea of himself as something of a ‘player’ …with women and more importantly, with life… is over, dead – and a substantial part of his ego dies with that seemingly casual encounter.

Later that same day, Jack and Tommy have a moment in the garden, eating chocolate biscuits and watching the sun go down, enjoying a special kind of contentment together. Little does Jack realize that the encounter with Ange, painful as it was, was the catalyst to the birth of a stronger Jack. But life can be challenging, and sometimes realizations take a while to dawn as we process them. That same night, Jack battles his fears and demons again, more paralyzed emotionally than physically, feeling lost, scared, rageful, frustrated, and wanting more than ever to escape into the comforting haze of alcohol again… but for Tommy’s sake he can’t… knowing on a deeper level that he’s abandoning Tommy if he does. Jack chooses his son – but that doesn’t mean the battle wasn’t hell itself.

Tommy is the anxious ‘witness’ to all that Jack goes through.. old before his time, worried about his father and his own future. Neither can understand or know what the outcome of their current situation will be, but both know that things can’t continue, however much they are in denial. But before a building up of anything new, there has to be a breaking down of what went before, and this story is about that very painful and difficult transitional stage that Tommy and Jack are going through. Tommy is clingy with his father… but Jack likes this, enjoys Tommy’s company, enjoys being needed, yet feels guilty about it too. When Jack suggests that Tommy doesn’t have much of a life hanging around ‘an old man in a wheelchair’ and maybe he should go and live with his mum, suddenly all of Tommy’s insecurities and fears of further abandonment by another parent explode in full emotional technicolor. Raging in panic, he pushes Jack angrily towards the local garbage dump, traps him in his chair there and releases all his pent up fears and anger.. blaming Jack, rightly, for their situation. Jack is left alone now to contemplate the harsh truthfulness of a child’s wounded words. He knows his son is right, and with that realization, another part of him dies - but something else stirs in him, something new he can’t identify yet – but it’s positive.

When Tommy sheepishly returns to the dump, Jack is instantly forgiving and Tommy, clearly sorry, runs to his dad and holds onto him as if it his life depended on it – and it does! They’ve made it through a necessary confrontation and are closer for it. On the way home, as they race each other, Tommy on his bike - Jack in his wheelchair - Tommy is bursting with pride when his dad overtakes him. Jack’s got strong arms, he’s fast and he is now becoming the hero father Tommy secretly wants and definitely needs for his own psychological growth. Jack wants to be the hero for Tommy, but something else is taking place inside
him, he’s actually enjoying himself! As they race, whatever they radiate out is bigger than the two of them - an old man on the roadside is drawn into their world and finds himself excitedly clapping and cheering Jack on, too – and so is the audience. We’re all urging Jack to fly now.

When Tommy is in bed that night and Jack comes in to see him, Jack’s earlier victory and show of ‘strength’ has given Tommy the security to voice his fears of abandonment (‘You won’t die will you?’). Tommy’s words are heartbreaking for Jack to hear, who suddenly sees Tommy as the scared little boy he really is… But somewhere deep inside, Jack still doesn’t believe he can pull off being the parent Tommy deserves – doesn’t feel ‘enough’ of a man. In desperation Jack calls Tommy’s mother, and asks her to take Tommy to live with her. Tommy listens at the door as his mother makes it clear she no longer wants Tommy around. This is another major transitional point in the story.. both now know that Jack is Tommy’s only chance, his one shot of a love and family. Jack has to come through for his son, there’s no way out

When next morning a frightened Tommy asks Jack what will happen to him if he’s taken away, Jack doesn’t think his heart could break any more for his kid.. but it does. He makes Tommy a passionate promise that no-one is taking him away… and for the first time in his life, Jack knows he can’t let someone down… if he does, it will destroy him. He actually wants this responsibility, he wants to come through, he wants to make everything OK for once in his life. Jack is changing and maturing in a major way before our eyes. At the same time we also see more of Tommy’s vulnerability and need to be protected, to be taken care of.

When Wiess, the Social Services officer, meets with Jack, we see Jack trying his best to impress – but this is not his forte…. He fails here… and when Peter Weiss calmly informs him that it’s in Tommy’s best interest that he be put into care, Jack has no choice but to finally sheds his old worn out skin and emerges as someone new and powerful; He fights to keep Tommy, to keep
his promise, nearly risking his own life in the process…

Small or comical as it may seem, this scene, where Jack stops Peter’s car is a life and death moment; physically, emotionally and most importantly - psychologically. Everything about the old Jack is now dead – he’s reborn. That first stirring he felt at the garbage dump has erupted as an invincible force. It’s so emotional and important a scene that Jack’s obvious love for his
son even has the power to change the cold and business-like Peter Weiss who, so moved by Jack’s plea from the heart, that this man of rules and logic, is overwhelmed when confronted by something he innately senses is more powerful and meaningful than any ‘rules’. And when Jack shows the full force his own humanity, he opens the way for Peter Weiss to discover his own, too.

In the final scene, we see that Tommy’s sensitivity is so finely tuned that he knows somehow he can ‘relax’ into his own skin as a kid for once. Seeing the Brazil nuts (an absurd symbol of health and longevity as well as playfulness) taped to the floor, ready to be cracked by his heroic father, in the wheelchair he has mastered using (also symbolic of Jack’s strength in accepting his disability) is a message to Tommy that both of their lives have changed forever.