Updated: Nov 19
Written & Directed by #CalebSvensson
Isolation. Loneliness. Paranoia. The international lockdowns of 2020 have, without question, brought profound challenges, confusion and chaos to the lives of millions across the world. Writer-director Caleb Svensson exquisitely uses this backdrop of global turmoil in his brilliant Anteros to offer a powerful expression of the potential of healing, hope and redemption amongst the madness.
Estranged from his family, and increasingly isolated from the community, wounded ex-soldier Joel (Nick Jones) edges ever closer to a nervous breakdown. His dilemma deepens even further with the onset of national lockdown on March 24th 2020 and when he comes under the watch of an enigmatic stalker.
As the film’s singular character, Nick Jones (also executive producer) has the formidable task of conveying Joel’s growing angst and turmoil in complete silence and, for the most part, behind sunglasses. Yet, Svensson keeps Joel and the audience connected throughout the piece; we are always made to feel a part of his world, through both the darkness and the light, akin to Julianne Donelle’s similarly psychological Split Second. With its snippets of narrative thread, enigmatic imagery and sense of severance, both internal and external, the film is also reminiscent of the Maya Deren classic Meshes Of The Afternoon. However, in contrast to a number of lockdown-inspired productions, Svensson effectively takes his drama outdoors to show us Joel lost amongst the empty streets and warmth of the community, making the character’s journey and escape from alienation even more impactful.
When the mystery does kick in, both Joel and the viewer are taken in an surprising direction, as Svensson deftly detours from the expected suspense-thriller routine to something very different. Joel begins to communicate with the stranger offering him solace. Slowly, against the troubled times of the world around him, and his own inner-turbulence, he begins to find a way through; reconnecting with a friend, making a difference to the community and, eventually, reaching some state of peace again and turning his life back round. It may sound à la Groundhog Day in its resolution but its played wonderfully simply and straight. And it works superbly well.
Without preaching or pandering, and crucially avoiding the mawkish, Anteros nobly rallies against the private and public darknesses of 2020, without ever undermining its devastation and the weight of one’s personal demons. A remarkable piece, Svensson has bravely, and expertly, brought to the screen a triumphant truth through the heartbreak and horror of the pandemic.