Short Film Review: Low Tide

Dakota Heveron gets on board Ian Hunt Duffy’s short horror Low Tide, which premiered at last year’s Cork Film Festival in November.

Ian Hunt Duffy’s chilling short horror film Low Tide centres on a fishing trip taken by a father (Steve Wall) and his son Jack (Luke Lally). But what seems on the surface to be an enjoyable day out on the water soon devolves into something far more sinister.

The film is driven by the compelling, naturalistic performances of its two leads, and Wall is especially haunting in the role of a brusque, impenitent father who soon reveals himself to be anything but paternalistic. Through the cinematography of Narayan Van Maele, the water itself becomes a character of its own, revealed through shots of its glassy expanse and black depths to be cold, dark, and unforgiving. Only adding to the film’s ominous aesthetics are scenes filled with shadow and moments of visceral imagery, including a shot of a fish being indifferently gutted.

The film’s score lends itself well to the precarity of the situation, where Jack’s fate at his father’s side is deeply unsure. Swells of triumphant music as the fishing boat glides across the water suggest an adventurous voyage, an age-old tradition between father and son. When the swells drop into silence, the characters are left alone against the backdrop of dark water and a slate sky, stark and foreboding. This sense of foreboding only grows when an eerie underscore creeps into being as the figure of the father becomes increasingly darker.

The narrative is filled with uncertainty, but only to the film’s advantage. While the final outcome for Jack may not be precisely clear, it doesn’t need to be. Instead of closure, the viewer is left with an appropriate sense of dread as Duffy explores and subverts the relationship between father and son, as well as themes of familial legacy and inherited violence.

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Short Film Review: The Escape

 

Niall McArdle takes a look at Paul Franklin’s science-fiction short, which premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.

 

Paul Franklin has made his mark in cinema in the dizzying world of visual effects, having done work on the likes of a few Harry Potter films, a Bond movie, and most recently, Captain America: Civil War. It’s his relationship with Christopher Nolan, however, that has been the most fruitful. They’ve worked together five times. Franklin turned city streets and hotel corridors on their head in Inception, and built an infinity of bookshelves for the purpose of space-time travelling (or something) in Interstellar (Franklin earned Oscars for both films).

All that time hanging out with Nolan has obviously rubbed off: Franklin’s directorial debut, The Escape, is a handsomely filmed science-fiction short that wears its influences on its sleeve: it feels like something that Nolan might make over a few days while waiting for Hans Zimmer to finish scoring his latest blockbuster.

Based on a short story by Robert Sheckley, The Escape has a mysterious, contrived set-up and much foreshadowing; its characters barely register as people; and it seems to exist in a fictional world just out of reach of our own.

Mr Lambert (Julian Sands looking scruffy, harried and old) scurries along a back –alley for a clandestine meeting in an antiques-filled warehouse with Mr Kellan (Art Malik, oozing charm and looking like a luxury car dealer). Mr Kellan is offering Lambert the opportunity to live any life he dreams – “free from the life to which you are chained” – in exchange for a high fee and ten years of his lifespan. He can do this because there are many worlds other than our own, “containing all possibilities, all outcomes.” How Lambert has mastered travel between parallel universes is never explained, nor why he needs to run his business out of a darkened warehouse, other than the fact that “the authorities take a dim view of my activities, so I’m obliged to exist where I can.”

Meanwhile, Lambert’s business is suffering, his daughter is heading off to university, his young son frets about the torrential rains the country is currently enduring, and his wife Sarah (Olivia Williams) feels that life is going too fast.

Franklin saves his big visual effects money shot until the end, and it’s a doozy (although I suspect you’ll see it coming). Until then, The Escape looks rather ordinary. However, the choice to begin work behind the camera making a short film was a wise one. The Escape is a decent enough calling card for Franklin, unlike, say, another of Nolan’s associates, cinematographer Wally Pfister, who made his directorial debut with the feature-length snooze-fest Transcendence. Franklin’s next film will be an adaptation of the YA novel Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson.

 

 

 

 

The Escape premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival on 20th April 2017

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Short Film Review: Sandboy

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June Butler mixes with weird figures made of sand dotting the scorched earth of an abandoned junk yard in Vittoria Colonna’s short film Sandboy, a tale of loss and redemption. 

 

Vittoria Colonna’s short film, Sandboy (2014), is a powerful response to loss and redemption. Drawing on personal tragedy, Colonna honestly and succinctly lays claim to understanding the strength of sisterhood – those unspoken feminine bonds that exist between women propelling them to a deeper understanding of human suffering.

It speaks volumes about Colonna’s directorial skills that such remarkable performances were elicited from each and every cast member – starting with the mutely pleading rawness of Grace (Wallis Murphy-Munn), to the searing empathy of Sam (O-Lan Jones). It is rare to see such torrid chemistry between an on-screen couple but in a few brief moments, Trent (Joshua Burrow) and Grace somehow manage to convince audiences that their relationship is both manifest and real.

Grace lives in a mangled trailer at a remote desert location. This one time junk yard is inhabited by broken sand sculptures – shape-shifting figures, rafts of symbols lovingly created by Grace and somehow imbued with her fractured sense of belonging – silent slaves to the demands of turmoil. The only other occupant is the ubiquitous Sam. From time to time, Grace is confronted by others who witness her shortcomings but fail to see how she is bound to grief by human frailty. A visit from unseen vandals provokes a cataclysmic moment of recognition which prompts Grace to revisit past sorrows.

Colonna herself has known adversity and come to terms with it – connecting learning with growth and inner peace. The most difficult component of evolution is forgiveness – very often the rough justice individuals mete out to themselves is harsher and of longer duration than any condemnation by judge and jury. To err is human. To forgive is truly divine.

Vittoria Colonna has succeeded in producing a most powerful body of work – enough to make the viewer recall moments over and over – slivers of captured light, the depths of sadness, implicit emotions and aching loss. If sorrow united with hope, joined together and became one, this film above all marks its inception. Sandboy is a sea of fragments – monuments to resolve and discovery – an ode to the strength of a fragile spirit rising from the ashes. Life continues.

 

            

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