Writer & Directed by: #JamesDavis
A fairytale crazed boy battles between fantasy and reality when coming to terms with his fathers death in the Welsh coal mines.
A Dead Canary is an amazing looking production; from the ragged hair and make-up, to the shabby costuming, James Davis’ written and directed short provokes a fantastic journey of self-discovery through loss. A brilliant young actor, Charlie Thould shows good attachment to the material, giving a lot to his performance and leading with terrific skill. The sharp black and white imagery by Charlotte Murphy is certainly very fitting for the 1950s setting. Her camerawork is slow and steady, following the boy’s wandering, curious mind as he heads out to look for his father. As the film comes to its final act, there’s a stunning shift to themes of horror, accompanied by a striking score from Guy Daws.
This is one of those films you can appreciate more just on its technical merits. The sound recording and design is practically flawless, bar a few scenes that could benefit from some warmer editing, though this is likely intentional due to the larger rooms the scenes were shot in. A spacial awareness in sound, if you will. Though I did notice that the first few minutes had the quality of dialogue from old movies or TV shows, which intentional or not, was a nice touch. Jumping back to the visuals; David Richards’ editing keeps the film clean and cut to a high standard, with little slippage. A Dead Canary is quite clearly a very polished production, but beyond this, not the most invigorating of stories.
I admire the quality of the writing; the themes of loss are present. The boy is in great denial about his father’s passing, due to the many tales he shared with his son, who now blurs the line between reality and fantasy. His mind is filled with this idea of a ‘Wonderland’ down in the mines, and it isn’t until his father’s funeral that he decides to rescue him himself. Of course, this is where the tonal shift takes its presence and it’s really well tackled… I just wish there was slightly more happening within the script.
A Dead Canary isn’t the first film to address the struggles of loss, nor will it be the last, but the execution in the visual and sound work makes it enjoyable enough. It’s a good, carefully made film — I just wished to expect a little something more from it.
Watch the trailer for A Dead Canary below.