Written and directed by Paul Murphy
Starring Lisa Kay and Tahirah Sharif
Short film review by Kira McPherson
Despite its title, there are few moments of complete stillness in “Stop”, a forceful short film written and directed by Paul Murphy.
A woman waits calmly for a bus, her composure undermined by the speeding traffic in the foreground of the shot. An earlier close up on the same woman’s face is framed by her bouncing hair, which moves up and down with the vigour of her walk.
Everything is constantly in motion, the film suggests. The question is how much control we have over the direction of travel. Karen, the woman, feels as though she has none, trapped in an abusive relationship and resigned to empty gestures of escape.
The conspicuous movements that frame Karen hint at what it might be like to live in this way, threatened by unstoppable forces from all directions.
A clumsier director might have opted for a first-person shot here, and it speaks to the film’s underlying sensitivity and sympathy for its subject matter that it does not.
In this choice and others, “Stop” reveals itself as being about empathy between fast-moving objects: strangers, spouses, buses and other vehicles all careening around the city together.
It is a fundamentally urban story about the steps people choose to take to move closer together or further apart.
The central relationship in the film is between Karen and a young girl, Niki, also waiting at the bus stop. Seeing Karen’s distress, Niki intervenes despite their obvious differences in age, race and circumstance.
But this is not a conventional odd couple film. If anything, it’s closer to a public service announcement on etiquette in the city – or rather, in lesser hands this is what it could have become, a utopian vision of “if you see something, say something” in full effect.
As it is, the film resists easy answers and definite conclusions. This is the space inhabited by the one true “stop” in the film, a pause in which Karen must decide where she will go next in her life.
If there is any real victory here, it lies with Niki, who makes the active choice to help a stranger rather than recede into the anonymity of city living.
Both actresses, Lisa Kay as Karen and Tahirah Sharif as Niki adeptly convey the importance of the choice facing Karen. Their characters appear as fully formed people, already in the middle of complex, emotional journeys much larger than the film can show.
The finest accomplishment of “Stop” is its sense of the passing moment, the pause in which lives can pivot in unexpected directions.
It is an impressive short film with the intensity of a small epiphany and a clear idea of what it wants to say. Viewers should listen.
Read more short film reviews here.