A Clockwork Heart short film review

★★★★★

Directed by: #DavidLawson

Written by: #DavidLawson

Starring: #AiyshaJebali, #GaryDean, #VincentSpangenberg, #HarrisonGraffin, #CatherineO'Donnell

Film Review by: Darren Tilby



In his short film debut, Writer/Director David Lawson takes us back to the roots of filmmaking; to the era of silent cinema; to the visualisation of the written narrative, in this, his superbly realised and utterly brilliant modern fairy tale, A Clockwork Heart.


Led by Catherine O’Donnell’s wonderfully melodic narration, Lawson’s steampunk-coated fable tells the tale of inventor Geoffrey Copperhead (Gary Dean) and his greatest creation, his “daughter”, Abigail (Aiysha Jebali). A girl of “no particular age” (I suppose because she doesn’t age) whose favourite pastimes are listening to her father’s fairy tales, reading and contemplating her existence during early-morning strolls through the forest. What is usually solitary walks through undisturbed environs, in places she once used to play, take an odd turn when, one morning, she befriends a man she finds enjoying the peace of the forest.


If all that sounds familiar, that’s because the film itself is an amalgamation of classic fairy tale tropes - the ageing man and his stories, the ancient forest and the young girl finding her place in the world - all have been commonplace for hundreds of years. It’s the same story with the characters. Simplicity is the key here, and, like many fairy tales, the characters are relatively basic in their construction; you shouldn’t expect any sweeping developmental character arcs or backstories here. But it suits the movie’s unique setting and aesthetic, and the performances, most of which have no dialogue, are a display of the splendour to be found with silent-era minimalism: a real masterclass in physical acting.


And this minimalistic nature, found in many of the film’s parts, allows the movie’s thematics to shine through. An exploration of humanity provides the fundamental bedrock upon which A Clockwork Heart is affixed, and Lawson’s examination of this is conducted with conviction and finesse. But it’s how this film; this story; this fable is crafted which impressed me most.


There’s incredibly rich visual storytelling here, achieved, in part, by Lawson’s ability to write a simple yet impactful story and bring it to screen to near perfection, all without diminishing the impact of O’Donnell’s astounding descriptive narration. Lawson’s fantastic cinematography work should make redundant the words being read to the viewer, so vividly put to screen, is it. But it doesn’t; instead, it adds depth to an already profuse offering, one of whimsy, cinematic nostalgia and unabashed joy.


Must watch short filmmaking.