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By midlandsmovies, Jan 25 2020 12:17PM

Midlands Review - Powerless

Directed by Nicole Pott


Sonder Films

Powerless is the latest short film from Sonder Films, written and directed by Nicole Pott who previously brought us 'Charlie' and 'Kaleidoscope' and is the organiser of the High Peak Film Festival.

It's the story of Clara (Katie-Marie Carter), a young boxer who's preparing for a big fight while trying to keep her brother Dan (Ellis Hollins) out of trouble. Their mother died two years ago and as the older sibling Clara is trying to look after Dan as best she can – but it's not easy as he's a boisterous lad and he runs with a rough crowd. She's not best pleased when he calls up late to dinner on the anniversary of their mother's death, but when the police turn up things take a turn for the tragic.

This is an extremely moving and powerful story. It's a testament to Pott's skills as a filmmaker that no scene is wasted, and the film does so much with little fanfare or melodramatics. It's a quiet, personal story that reaches out and prods you right in the heart.

Carter and Hollins are excellent together, with easy chemistry that makes the brother-sister dynamic clear and believable right from the start. Carter is the standout as her role carries more emotional weight, and she does a brilliant job as a weary young woman who has to juggle the demands of her own dream with those of looking after a wayward teen boy.

Her sorrow and rage are entirely believable, and I'd wager it's impossible to watch the performance without choking up a little.

The sad piano soundtrack towards the end is a little on-the-nose, and a couple of the secondary performances are a bit on the flat side, but overall this is a superb film that handles the powerlessness of grief extremely well.

There are so many things that are beyond our control, and nothing reminds us of this more than the death of loved ones. It spins you out of orbit and sends you reeling into the unknown. But it is possible to claw your way back, to regain control step by step, as Clara does with her cathartic boxing. You can rebuild and move on.

Nicole Pott has a few more shorts in development at the moment, and I for one can't wait to see what comes next.

Sam Kurd

Twitter @Splend

By midlandsmovies, May 9 2019 05:59PM


Directed by Nicole Pott


“Who’s in control now?”

Kaleidoscope is the new 10-minute short from Derbyshire director Nicole Pott showing the preparation of a child’s party by his parents that unwraps a far more sinister side to this suburban family’s life.

We open on a brightly lit day where a child in a dinosaur onesie plays in his room. The camera lightly dances around the boy, Conan, (played by an excellent Harry Tayler) and along with a suitably whimsical piano score brings us into a world of childhood imagination.

As his mum (Cressida Cooper) calls him down to breakfast, he stops playing with his gun and goggles and we see his father (a burley Ian Virgo) arrive with a toweringly big present.

Whilst mother busies herself with phone calls and food preparation, we get scenes of father-son bonding. Conan and his ‘Papa’ pretend to be karate masters before he teaches his son to put on a tie for school and they leave.

Here the film cuts to later in the day with a distinct shift in tone as well. Director Pott subtly moves us from a place of childhood wonder to a darker drama as mother and father begin arguing.

Barbs fly about the father’s drinking habits and Conan moves himself away and retreats into his own world, returning to his steampunk goggles that help him hide from the noisy quarrel downstairs.

However, unbeknownst to the disputing parents, their argument moves into the bedroom he’s hiding in and he witnesses the argument become far more serious.

A verbal assault becomes a physical confrontation between them as their son witnesses the worst of family situations. Musically the audio turns much more melancholic and the film shows some stark realities of domestic violence.

As lonely Conan blows out the candles on his cake, the ending is far darker yet poignant than the frilly beginning. Kaleidoscope therefore leads audiences down surprising yet satisfying narrative paths and the short works tremendously well by contrasting these two extreme elements.

As Conan sees through dark lenses, the film’s kaleidoscopic nature consists of different parts, constantly blurring and fracturing your expectations.

With three strong performances, the actors are very believable during their interactions which move from heart-warming to dark warnings – especially when we get glimpses of a controlling and abusive partner.

Showcasing how domestic violence can be lurking very much beneath the surface of a seemingly fun-loving family, Kaleidoscope exposes a wealth of distorted domestic secrets using a wonderful narrative structure. Skilfully playing with expectations, the short is a great drama showing the unpleasant patterns of cruel perpetrators.

Michael Sales

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