Written and Directed by Sam Saffold Starring Daniel J. Layton, Francesca Louise White, Cael King, Rebecca Day, Guy Larsen, Sophie Wyatt, & Ashley Russell Short Film Review by Chris Olson
Short mystery thriller A Welcoming Place is a fluid and compelling journey through loss and grief, cocooned in a sci-fi shell that plays on themes of isolation, otherness, and man’s struggle to be anything other than fearful towards the different.
Struggling to cope in the aftermath of his father's passing, Phillip (Daniel J. Layton) decides to venture to a house his dad had secreted away in the countryside. After a less than simple journey, Phillip is perturbed to find that the house is already occupied. Greeting him with a warm welcome, Phillip quickly becomes suspicious of Nina (Francesca Louise White) and her nineteen-lumps-of-sugar-in-his-tea partner Terrance (Cael King), who immediately have an air of Invasion of the Body Snatchers about them. The tension is amped up further when Philip's sister Sophie (Rebecca Day) arrives, and when she finds Phillip ragefully bludgeoning the garden lawn in the middle of the night.
When watching A Welcoming Place, audiences will be immediately drawn into the suspenseful atmosphere which is built upon throughout the short, through the use of intelligent dialogue, elusive camerawork, and believable performances. As the tone of the movie sweeps the viewer away, they will be completely unprepared for the thematic depth which rises like a spectre in the shadows, creating a cinematic experience that is immensely thrilling and thought-provoking.
Writer and director Sam Saffold has not reinvented the wheel here, and does indeed borrow elements from all kinds of genres and storytellers, but like a great chef, he uses the same ingredients to prepare something that is ultimately fresh, hugely enjoyable, and a modern take on classic dish. His use of family is particular excellent, allowing the ghost of Phillip's father to play an integral role in the emotional conflict of the central character, as well as on Sophie, and the plot as a whole.
The performances are excellent, with Layton turning in a varied and subtle turn as the main player. White is totally engaging as Nina, in particular a scene in the local pub (where no one goes and if they do they certainly don't buy a drink). Day offers a nice injection of change and alertness to the short with her introduction. The most notable performance, though, is King who is tremendously compelling as the mysterious house guest and host.
Overall, a well executed and intelligent short that utilises excellent cinematography, performances, and themes to create something different and interesting...things which we should never fear.