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|Shadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreign, docs and shorts...
|Reviews by Rich Cline | See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 9.Jul.22
Girls Feels: Into the Blue
Reviews by Rich Cline
release UK 8.Jul.22
22/UK NQV 1h34
This new series kicks off with four short films set around water, exploring universal themes about youth and connections through female characters. These are rather dark stories, grappling with some properly powerful themes in ways that challenge the audience rather than simply make us feel good. Thankfully, each film also remains warmly humane in its approach, with honest acting and first-rate production values. They're also strongly well-made, marking the filmmakers as ones to watch.
dir-scr Celia Bchir
with Celine Berti, Violette Gitton, Mathieu Metral, Mathias Minne, Caroline Dubois, Violette Mallet, Salome Subtil
Off Season Saison Calme
Spectacular photography creates an immediately involving tone, as the opening shot depicts high tide overwhelming a swimming pool on the French coast. With both earthy and surreal touches, this drama delves into the deeper feelings of a young woman who is only just beginning to understand who she is. But where it goes is seriously intense, as filmmaker Bchir opts to be provocative rather than hopeful.
In a coastal resort town, Marion (Berti) enjoys her solitary routine as a lifeguard on the beach, kicking into action when she spots a swimmer in trouble. Then when the young people are having a lively nighttime beach party, she maintains her distance. Slowly, she begins to befriend Elise (Gitton), who is clearly interested in her but doesn't know how to swim. So Marion offers some tentative lessons, which lead to an unexpected kiss.
Where this goes is definitely not what's expected. While some scenes have a documentary authenticity to them, Bchir gives the film an otherworldly tone that touches on the inner lives of both Marion and Elise, especially in the darkly evocative underwater sequences. So while it has moments of boisterous energy, the film remains internalised and observant, catching details that reveal characters and their connections. Still, it leaves us more than a little shaken.
dir Lea Mysius, Paul Guilhaume
scr Lea Mysius
with Ena Letourneux, Alexandre Branco, Isabelle Coste, Denis Wallon, Karine Wiame, Robin Labbe, Rosalie Cremieux, Gaia Georges
The Yellow Island Lîle Jaune
Filmmakers Mysius and Guilhaume capture superbly naturalistic rhythms in this drama about young teens, allowing the film to quietly explore bigger issues such as peer pressure and bullying. Meanwhile, the story itself has an almost mythical quality to it, sending the innocent young protagonist on an involving odyssey of discovery about the world and herself. So even if the story meanders a bit, it's a remarkably complex journey.
At age 11, Ena (Letourneux) is initially confused then overly excited when a teen fisherman (Labbe) offers her an eel and asks to meet her on the other side of the pond. Still absorbing this, she attends her sailing class and is partnered with 14-year-old Diego (Branco), a shy boy who is sidelined by other kids because of his burn-scarred face. He's understandably defensive to the relentless criticism, but as Ena gets to know him she becomes curious about his home on a yellow island.
Sticking closely to Ena's perspective, the film pulls us into the unfolding events, as she realises that Diego is actually more interesting than the tall, handsome eel boy. Their sunshiny trip to visit Diego's home island is beautifully shot, taking in remarkable details about both the kids and the fascinating landscapes. There the story takes an unexpectedly heart-stopping turn. And because it finds moments of earthy humour, raw emotion and drama along the way, the film carries an intense kick.
dir-scr Gabriele Urbonaite
with Ugne Beleckaite, Egle Valadkeviciute, Petras Kuneika, Dainius Gavenonis, Viktorija Kuodyte, Sonata Visockaite, Vidunas Gedeikis
The Swimmer Plaukikė
Sharply photographed with an attention to detail, this gentle drama from Lithuania explores an unusual friendship at a swimming pool between a young girl and a young woman. Filmmaker Urbonaite generates a hushed tone draws attention to deeper issues gurgling that are gurgling within these two characters as the narrative perspective shifts back and forth between them. And the way the film hints at a much bigger picture is remarkable.
It opens on 10-year-old Grete (Beleckaite), who enjoys swimming lessons but is frightened to jump off the starting block. Her coach (Visockaite) is impatient, but her big brother Jonas (Kuneika) gets her an ice cream. Then she meets 19-year-old aspiring Olympic swimmer Ariel (Valadkeviciute), who helps Ena overcome her fear. Ariel is being coached by her father (Gavenonis), and is worried about growing pain in her leg. Maybe this offbeat friendship can help each of them move forward.
With the extended running time, Urbonaite is able to widen the picture of Grete's life to include her stressed-out mother (Kuodyte) and to allow Jonas to have the expected spark of interest with Ariel. While what Ariel is facing takes on some strongly resonant textures. So while there are moments of levity along the way, the film remains muted and darkly dramatic, taking on some remarkably weighty issues with an unusually light touch.
dir-scr Alex Withers
with Louise Salter, Rupert Procter, Maisie Barlow, Kerry Sirrell, Joseph Maudsley, Maria Kendal
Internalised and thoughtful, this British short drama hones in on a teen who feels like her entire future is slipping out of her grasp. Writer-director Withers takes a sometimes pushy and over-serious approach to the material, which makes the film feel like it's wallowing in circles. But the film beautifully captures a specific feeling that's dark and complicated, and impossible to resist.
At 16, Jane (Salter) is preparing for an important swimming competition when her epilepsy returns. After suffering from a seizure in the pool, she's not allowed to swim, so her grades begin slipping. At home, the ensuing criticism from her father (Procter) only makes her feel worse. And friends at school aren't much help either. The question is whether it would be too dangerous for her to return to the swim team, especially with the heat of competition.
The film's striking cinematography creates a moody intensity that's compelling, especially as the visuals are accompanied by a viscerally dense mix of music and sound. The camera remains mainly tight on Salter's face, and she skilfully underplays Jane's big emotional journey, allowing the audience to see themselves in her frustration. This also makes it easy to feel her yearning to get back in the water and prove that she's still here, and that she still has something to add to the world.
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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