Directed by: #NicolePott
Written by: #MichaelaLongden
Director Nicole Pott has really made a name for herself over the last five years for directing (and writing) hard-hitting, socio-cultural dramas. It perhaps comes as little surprise then to hear that, last year, she was approached to direct first-time-writer Michaela Longden’s short film, Asphyxiate. A film which examines not only what domestic abuse can look like, but also the effects – both short and long term – physical and emotional abuse has on the victim.
I won’t mess about here, this is an incredibly difficult movie to watch. And that’s coming from someone who’s never had to endure a relationship like this. But, of course, it should be. No-one should be trivialising a problem that affects millions of women in the UK alone. So it’s good that the tonality here is beyond perfection. Longden’s sublime, and incredibly intimate, writing style takes us through Katie’s (Michaela Longden) increasingly dysfunctional relationship with her ever controlling, and violent, partner Tom (Anthony Quinlan).
As you may have guessed, the film gets its title from the unbearable sensation of suffocation often felt by those in such relationships as Katie eventually finds herself in. And so it seems entirely appropriate when Longden just drops us into the deep end and expects us to swim. Something we never really recover from until the movie ends, as we’re immediately put into Katie’s shoes. We have no problem in sympathising with Katie’s situation: she’s desperately trying to stay afloat while having her character broken down and destroyed, piece by piece.
It’s an uncomfortable feeling, one that’s made even more so by its two brilliant central performances. Quinlan is fantastic as the utterly reprehensible Tom, particularly in his portrayal of a person having absolute power over another. While Longden, in the lead role of Katie (the very heart of the film), displays an undeniable powerhouse of a performance; a simmering pot of fervour with whom we can fully sympathise.
In fact, the sensation of asphyxiation is so authentic, even for the viewer. Just watching the movie (which is beautifully framed and shot by Hamish Saks) made me feel like I was constricted and trapped. The remarkable sound design is mostly to blame/thank for this. The terrific (and terrifying) brooding intensity of GAS Music's’ work here is outstanding. It seems such a simple score – in its construction, at least – but it’s so devastatingly effective.
It’s hard to imagine Asphyxiate could have had a better writer and director coupling than Michaela Longden and Nicole Pott. The pair are at the top of their game here, and it shows; this is damn near perfection. Everything feels extremely personal and all too real. There were a few times when I just wanted the film to end, so unbearable, was it. I don’t mean that in any negative way, of course, it’s how the film should be. And it’s the kind of movie we desperately more of. One that isn’t afraid to tackle difficult socio-cultural issues head-on, and from an unashamed and unapologetically female point-of-view. A brilliant piece of work on an incredibly important subject matter.