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Midlands Feature Review - Night Owls

By midlandsmovies, Dec 16 2015 09:11AM

Night Owls (2015) Directed by Sophie Black


Sophie Black shows there’s no place like home in this new 12 minute short from the Nottingham director of Ashes (2013) and tells of two unlikely souls meeting in awkward circumstances. The film begins on a rainy night with Jonny McPherson’s “Kent” minding his own business at home, reading diligently as rain pours down. A storm of another sorts occurs when he is interrupted by strange sounds at his door to find “Mari” (Holly Rushbrooke) attempting to break in.


Requesting to enter, Mari is reluctantly invited indoors from the rain by the suspicious Kent who demands she leave once the downpour stops. Drying her hair, he offers her tea and with his young but bespectacled face McPherson deftly plays a character unsure of his place – and it seems – his age.


Age, time and the contrast of young and old are motifs that appear throughout but during their talks together, they are soon drawn to each other’s quirks as they delve into their respective backgrounds. Some dialogue is a bit on the nose (“You know the kid who didn’t fit in”) and feels unnecessary when other aspects of that character tell the audience it’s clearly the case already. However, other lines help flesh out how they see each other – “You look like the kind of guy who would own a cat” with more being said in the spaces between words than their chat itself.


Black has filled her shots with trinkets and objects of all sorts including candelabras to barometers which give off an archaic tone to the proceedings and this classicism continues with the film’s photography and colour grading using mottled bronze and dark browns. Cracked leather boots and antique clocks continue the great mise-en-scene with Black’s background in costume and set design being a standout positive of the tale.


McPherson as Kent looks adrift throughout; a lonely soul in a “gargantuan” house that he says he can’t get lost in but his life appears lost in more ways than one. In contrast, Mari prods and probes with her questions like a burglar trying to break into the private world Kent has constructed. The two opposites soon find common ground however. First, in music (the old-fashioned Kent has LPs of course) and then they bond over a shared cannabis joint.


A “God-shot” camera angle finally places them in a scene together (head to toe no less) whilst the previous floating handheld camera was used to great effect poking into their lives. The antiquated discussions continue as the characters converse on diverse subjects such as parents and death but they find more mutual comfort as strangers who feel distant from their families. Feeling like lost causes, Black ensures that they look at each other through smoky hazes, again peeking through the artifices they have placed upon themselves. Trying to decipher each other through this cloud, the actors pull off both the tricky task of honesty yet failing to disclose all their private fears.


The short ends on a high as a surprise is kept (not swept) “under the carpet” and as morning arrives, a new light shines on both of them and a tale of two opposites possibly becomes the dawn of a new friendship.


A well thought-out short, the film’s themes are its greatest asset and Black also throws in some nods to Hollywood history too. We find Mari is short for Marilyn (of Monroe fame) and a symbolic pair of ruby slippers evoke a new journey and return home to family. I’d recommend catching this great short on its inevitable successful festival run and Black’s elegant style and nods to bygone eras make this a charm to watch.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike

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