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By midlandsmovies, Oct 31 2019 01:00PM



Midlands Review - The Despondent


Directed by Nisaro Karim


2019


Five Pence Productions


The Despondent is the latest film from Five Pence Productions, the prolific Birmingham-based company who brought us Jed, The Chase, Peaky Blinders: A New Era and more. Primarily known for crime tales, this film is something of an ambitious departure for them as it sees them take on the horror genre.


Jazzmin Letitia stars as Keira, a troubled young woman who lives at home with her mother Jenny, played by Lisa Blissitt. At night she's tormented by visions of an evil demon in her room, one that seems bent on harming her, one that it seems there can be no escape from.


Horror has a rich history of externalising our internal demons, and that's pretty much what's happening here. Keira is depressed and the demon is her depression, pushing her towards suicide. It's all taking place in her head, the battleground where many of us (myself included) struggle and fight daily. It's a good analogy, but rather on-the-nose here.


The film is far from subtle, making it absolutely clear what's going on from Keira's conversation with her mum about her self-harm and medication. It would have perhaps been more interesting to see the two dance around the subject, never raising it head on but dealing entirely in subtext, so that when the tragic ending comes it hits harder. Having Keira stay in her pyjamas over the course of the two days is a very good touch, though, as that's absolutely consistent with some people who suffer from depression.


The story is quite slim and would benefit from having a little more to it, making the film a bit longer. It would have been good to have had more of a sense of Keira's struggles in the daytime sequences, and how they relate to her night terrors, so that we can relate to her more as a character. The scene with her mother establishes their rocky relationship in one quick punch, but at only 6 minutes long there's plenty of scope to let the relationship breathe a little more and help us understand Keira more intimately. As it is, she comes across more as moody than depressed.


This isn't to say that it's a bad performance; Letitia shines in the hallucinatory sequences where she's beset by the demon, coming across as believably vulnerable and disoriented. The standout performance by far though is the demon; it's not clear from the credits who played the part (perhaps split between Imran Uddin and Zohair Raza?), but it's a great piece of creepy body-performance, with stilted and almost contortionist-style movements. I definitely wouldn't want to wake to find him in my bedroom!


The film shines best in these disorienting sequences. The hand-held, shaky camerawork does a great job of confusing and distressing the viewer, and the unnatural framing and lighting work together to create unsettling scenes. There's a misconception that its easy to do horror on a low budget; it has to be planned and carried out carefully to make the most of what you have. Keeping the shots tight and moving fast keeps the audience uncomfortable and on their toes in the nightmare sequences, worrying that anything could happen. The film makes great use of noise in these sequences too, arguably the most important part of any horror film.


Ultimately, The Despondents falls just short of its ambition but it's still a great first step into horror. Nisaro Karim clearly has an instinct for how to unsettle the audience, it's just the slimness of the story itself that holds the film back. Definitely worth a watch, and here's hoping there's more horror to come from Karim and Five Pence!


Sam Kurd

Twitter @Splend


By midlandsmovies, Jul 16 2018 10:19AM



Dark Days


Directed by Daryl Grizzle


A Grizzle and Steele Film


We open on a regular street as a lady leaves her suburban house to stretch before going for a run but there’s nothing regular about this new film from West Midlands director Daryl Grizzle.


As we track her in the park jogging, seemingly enjoying a pastime passion, the film uses narration to explain to the audience how difficult life is living with a mental illness.


Having previously created short film Bless You, which we saw at Leicester’s Short Cinema festival in 2017, the director here provides a portrait of a dark personal journey. With sequences of narration delivered direct to camera in small interview-style segments the film doesn’t sugar-coat the awful aftermaths of actions like self-harm and explores the difficulties of living with depression and its stigma in today’s society.


The film stars Jade Samuels as the protagonist who, as is explained in a coda at the film’s end, is actually performing a recreation of a real interview conducted in 2017. An interesting concept for sure but for me I would have preferred for this context to be given at the start of the film in order for the real truths to hit home from the beginning.


Our protagonist’s testimony continues as the tragic consequences of deep cuts that require stitches, and sometimes even surgery, are explained and delivered by Samuels in an honest portrayal throughout.



A bit more creative flair would set the film apart from the crowd as although the technical elements were first class - especially the park-based tracking shots, the serious themes were slightly undermined with a standard mix of handheld camera work in her house and some VERY long shots which pushed away from the much-needed intimacy.


However, the few minor flaws don’t distract from the story as a whole and we are told how she joins an athletics club before acts of divorcing parents and changing schools became a trigger during a difficult period.


Add to this peer pressure, bullying and name calling and we discover she gives up her hobby which is recounted as the thing that made her most happy. With some solitary bathroom shots there was also a small echo of recent local film HIM (click here) which covers similar subject matter and is worth seeking out as well.


The film is good at leaving some threads open to interpretation however and questions how these childhood events shape and sometimes control us.


And with the disease of depression becoming more fully understood by society as a whole, it is admirable that this film shines a light on a real victim and the very truthful troubles they have been through.


More of a monologue than a full exploration, Dark Days does hold on to the thought that although a positive outlook will not cure the struggles faced by sufferers, there is light at the end of this dark tunnel. Leaving the audience then with a message that sufferer’s journeys will be a marathon and not a sprint, it successfully focuses on how understanding and awareness will help guide people’s efforts in the right direction.


Midlands Movies Mike


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