Directed by: #PhilipMartin
Written by: #PhilipMartin
There is little that can be said about Adéla that won’t veer immediately into spoiler territory, but that may be its greatest strength. In this deceptively simple short, drug dealer Jacek (Purvis) endures the ramblings of a prospective customer (Iddon) before leading him home where his sister, Adéla (Rogers), awaits them. Set on the streets of Manchester, Philip Martin’s film balances a grounded, gritty narrative with something far more sinister. The story itself is a familiar one, but this is far from a tired narrative, and a few key choices make it feel fresh.
The film strives to maintain an impressive sense of realism throughout, and Daniel Patrick Vaughan’s cinematography helps. It makes great use of natural light, both inside and out; the sun filtering through newspaper taped to the windows in Jacek’s house lends the film an odd warmth, jarring against the sparse, crumbling interior, and the shock of the climax. This is unfortunately overshadowed by Tom McLaughlan’s distracting score, an almost constant presence that undercuts much of the film’s tension. The music itself, rising dramatically and optimistically, is effective at times, but sadly robs the climax of its power.
Luckily, Adéla has a cast that, in such a short time, truly shines. Purvis’ exasperation with his customer is palpable, and as the film reaches its peak, the reason for his frustration becomes horribly clear; Iddon’s twitchy, desperate addict is pathetic and sympathetic in equal measure; and Rogers’ dreamy narration and dead-eyed stare fit the mood perfectly. These are not particularly meaty roles – like the plot, they are not even particularly original – but Martin’s script takes this familiar idea and reworks it, allowing for greater introspection: why, for example, Jacek has to be a drug dealer, and why a desperate addict is the perfect target.
But the main theme here is that of a brother’s love for his sister. We see this in the lengths to which Jacek is willing to go to support and protect Adéla; and we hear it in Adéla’s tender, almost romantic narration, and in her contrite, sincere thanks at the film’s closing. As the film progresses, Jacek’s frustration with his customer reads more clearly as furtive, desperate guilt, and at the end of it all, he seems exhausted, but we know he will keep doing whatever it takes to keep Adéla safe, even if it means putting others at risk.
Adéla takes a familiar narrative and presents it brilliantly. Despite a somewhat overbearing score, it maintains a dark, melancholy, and strangely uplifting tone. In the end, it is a love story that has been told many times before, and will no doubt continue to be told for years to come.