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Reviews by Rich Cline | See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 16.May.21

Upon Her Lips: Heartbeats  
Reviews by Rich Cline
release UK 9.Jul.21
21/UK NQV 1h29

There's a sense of drama in each of these eight short films about women confronting their emotions, even in the documentary and the clips that are set out as comedies. Situations depicted range from warmly humorous to awkward and difficult, a mix that makes them involving. There's a sense of discovery in each story as characters find their own ways to explore the feelings inside them. And the filmmaking is astute and revelatory.

control dir-scr Elin Overgaard
with Isabel Jurehn, Elin Overgaard
14/Sweden 7m

Kontroll   3.5/5

Control Intimately shot in close up, this Swedish drama hones in on a couple that is beginning to feel like there's something wrong between them. The camerawork and performances are earthy and natural, as filmmaker-actor Overgaard takes a loose approach to the characters, letting things unfold in an improvisational style that turns the audience into voyeurs watching a scene without knowing the back-story.

Two young women (Jurehn and Overgaard) are struggling to put into words the problems in their relationship. One of them is unsure why feelings are shifting so dramatically, while the other is more certain about the fact that she thinks they need to stop seeing each other. But while their mutual attraction remains, neither of them feels remotely in control of the situation.

There's a wide range of meaning woven into the interaction between these women, which is raw and emotional, knowingly expressed in a variety of ways. The evolving conversation is fragmented and uncertain, as both try to express their thoughts, and their close physicality isn't helping them find clarity in the situation. The film feels a bit slight, like a burst of frustration, but its darker observations resonate.

stewart-taylor and steward dir-scr Ronit Meranda
with Lynn Stewart-Taylor, Lara Steward, Catherine Guy
16/UK 10m


Honeymoon This British short is a sharply well-made drama featuring two deaf protagonists, which adds fascinating layers of expression to the story. Writer-director Meranda observes details at each moment throughout an ongoing, spiralling disagreement, providing insight through a clever sound mix. And the deeper issues are thoughtful and important.

On the shore of a picturesque lake in the country, Lucy and Joanna (Stewart-Taylor and Steward) are enjoying their honeymoon. One of them is frustrated that the weather isn't nice enough to swim, while the other is just happy that they're together. But their clashing approach to the people around them leads to a fierce argument in the hotel dining room, which of course no one else notices because they're speaking in sign language.

This conversation over dinner is fascinating, as this couple's physicality makes them extraordinarily expressive, especially as they argue about whether the owner (Guy) is being insensitive or deliberately bigoted. Of course, they are also feeling judged about their sexuality. So as their feelings boil over into a full-on fight, there are powerfully pointed issues that bring out both their personalities and the much bigger picture that anyone who has been marginalised will instantly recognise.

jorgensen and ziegelman dir-scr Tom-Lee Ziegelman
with Sarah Simone Jorgensen, Tom-Lee Ziegelman, Ahmed Mansour, Karin Larsen
18/Denmark 9m


Narciso There's a witty kick to this little comedy-drama, as it plays with language to reveal deeper romantic feelings. Israeli actress-filmmaker Ziegelman tells a story that inventively scrambles literal meanings for something more intentional and revealing. This provides some snappy humour as the narrative progresses, and also allows things to dip knowingly beneath the light surface.

In Denmark, a young woman (Jorgensen) is teaching her Israeli lover (Ziegelman) words in her native tongue as they lounge around together in the sunshine. But her translations reflect her thoughts rather than correct meanings. With only broken English as a common language, these women are forced to interact through actions and touch, asking questions the other can't quite answer. And when she goes to a shop for supplies, the lover discovers what her newfound Danish words actually mean.

The film has a gauzy visual sheen to it, sharply catching textures and colours in everyday locations, reflecting the flush of attraction between these women. And both actresses find ways to communicate even when they're not speaking to each other, mainly because they can't. It's a lovely depiction of the early days of a relationship when words are never quite what they mean, and true feelings are almost impossible to express.

kunkel dir-scr Nathalie Alvarez Mesen
with Kinsey Kunkel, Cece Kelly, Ewan Fleck, Rohan Myers
18/US 14m


Molt With an almost fantastical visual sensibility, this short catches details of life in rural Appalachia as two young teens begin to consider their relationship through new eyes as they grow up. It's a gentle slice of life in which seemingly small incidents feel life-changing, harmless events take scary turns, and children begin to discover how to interact with each other without adults to guide them.

On a summer evening, 12-year-old Cadie (Kunkel) sits chatting in the fading sunshine with her best friend Sarah (Kelly). As they joke around, Sarah decides that they should become blood sisters, staging a ritual that involves a kiss. But two boys (Fleck and Myers) turn up, interrupting them and pushing them in uncomfortable ways, as boys usually do. And Cadie and Sarah realise they need to be there for each other.

The film is gorgeously shot, with inventive touches that add to the mood, letting the audience see into the minds of these girls. Each of the four young actors gives a remarkably naturalistic performance, and their random interaction feels almost unnervingly realistic, complete with moments of surging emotion and underlying tension. It's perhaps a little too loose to carry a big punch, but it echoes in haunting ways.

jorrion and heran dir-scr Marion Jhoaner
with Zoe Heran, Celine Jorrion, Jade Henot, Gregoire Baujat
16/France 20m

Forbidden Fruit  
Fruit Défendu   3.5/5

Forbidden Fruit Skilfully shot and edited like a feature film, this fascinating French short provocatively explores a strained mother-daughter relationship. Writer-director Jhoaner has a deep understanding of these characters, and takes the audience on a riveting journey along with the teen daughter. Meanwhile, gifted cast members create complex interaction both in the unstructured dialog and the unspoken thoughts that emerge between the lines.

Ay age 15, Sam (Heran) is beginning to wonder what drug her mother Eliane (Jorrion) is giving her every night before bed. One night, she skips the pill, triggering an unexpected emotional and physical response. And when her new friend Jade (Henot) comes along, Sam finds someone who can perhaps offer her a more honest perspective on what growing up means. But of course her mother feels threatened.

The awkwardness between Sam and her mother is vividly captured in the intimate camerawork and unusually introspective performances. Often this feels so personal that the characters remain just out of reach. And while Sam is reluctant to trust Jade, the way she explores her evolving thoughts is gorgeously played by the gifted Heran. This is a complex drama with layers of implications and meaning, and it beautifully captures a sense of teen awakening.

mcguffin dir-scr Paige Gratland, Sam McWilliams
with Deana McGuffin, Sam McWilliams, Paige Gratland
15/US 11m


Bootwmn This documentary short centres on a colourful woman with a specific set of skills. She recounts her story to the camera with humour and warmth, and it's shot and edited with a superb eye for detail. Eventually it hones in on an intriguing event from her career that has deeper resonance in her life. Which of course makes the film that much more meaningful.

A third-generation bootmaker in Albuquerque, Deana makes finely detailed footwear that's a work of art. She had to talk her father into teaching her the craft, because he didn't think a woman should be doing this. Elaborately stitched and inlaid, her boots are stunningly expressive. So one day she's approached by Sam and Paige to make a specifically gay set of boots in a very short period of time, featuring a range of iconic imagery.

To Deana, these gay boots are something special, and the film follows the story as they are entered into a prestigious Texas competition. She's a likeable, hilarious woman who speaks about how she knew from a very early age that she was different from other girls. Her anecdotes reveal the way she dives into each challenge and retains warm feelings for each of her creations. After 30 years, Deana also finds inspiration in teaching this skill to youngsters. Whether she'll pass this on to her daughter or grandson is the unanswered question.

Bouddhi Bouddha dir-scr Sophie Galibert
with Aude-Laurence Clermont-Biver, Elisa Cara
13/France 8m

Bouddhi Bouddha  

Bouddhi Bouddha There's a superbly relaxed and sparky tone to this little French comedy-drama, which explores the reconnection between two friends who haven't seen each other in awhile. Even if the film feels a bit under-defined, writer-director Galibert has a terrific eye for detail, bringing the characters to life through sharply colourful sets and an enjoyably subtle story.

Returning from a backpacking trip to Nepal, a young woman is back home in Paris regaling her best friend with stories about the people, culture and spectacular Himilayan landscapes. As they renew their close bond, they decide to have a meditation session together. So they light candles and sit on the floor with their eyes closed. And in this shared space, romantic feelings come to the surface.

The film is simple and sensuous, quietly letting these women connect with each other after a time apart, and then take things perhaps further than either of them expected. The surprise expressed on their faces is beautiful to see, as moments of discovery and anticipation mingle with flickers of doubts. But there's a superb sense of their closeness, nicely played with a wry wink by both actresses.

A L S O   O N

After His Death
After His Death
dir-scr Lior Soroka
with Adi Bielski, Levana Finkelstein
17/Israel 11m 3.5/5

Reviewed for The Israeli Boys

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 3.Jul.21

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall