Directed by: #JosephOllman
Written by: #JosephOllman
ShortFilm Review by: #ChrisBuick
Writer and director Joseph Ollman might only have a few short films under his belt, but it’s clear that he is a filmmaker with heaps of passion, has a natural eye for directing and most importantly, is quite the storyteller.
In Ollman’s latest short Bitter Sky, Nia (Shaw), a young girl originally from Liverpool but now displaced in Welsh valleys, finds herself dreaming of escape from her abusive adoptive father Roy (Harrington) in the hopes of reuniting with her absent mother. Despite her understandably distrusting and distant nature, she befriends local boy Aron (Jones), who agrees to help her with her plan to fix up a car and finally get away from it all.
The writing here is top class. By simply inserting some subtle but effective character moments into the films narrative, it manages to give us a complete sense of the history of the situation we are witnessing, without ever overshadowing the present.
It always feels incredibly grounded and has dialogue that feels consistently authentic to its characters.
There is also a wonderful rhythm to the film that stays true throughout, always seeming to have a sense of knowing exactly where it is going and getting there at just the right pace. The apt blue-grey darkened visuals created by the films dreary setting also really help emphasise the sadness of the piece and keep the mood of the film right where it should be.
As well as the great work behind the camera, our three leads also all play out their parts superbly. Harrington fully embodies the role of Roy, a man who at all times is able to exert his dominance over Nia, initially through disquieting manipulation, but should that not suffice, there is a real temper bubbling just under the surface to help make his message crystal clear.
Jones charms as affable scrapyard lad Aron with whom Nia finds solace away from home and school, and the two play off each other well with some great back-and-forth. But this is Nia’s story, and Shaw’s heart is right in there from start to finish again showing great range whether it’s in her moments as the over-aggressive teen lashing out at the world, or in the raw vulnerable moments that show that she is still just a young girl feeling lost and abandoned.
In Bitter Sky, Ollman manages in a short space of time to create a world filled with richly developed characters and craft a story that allows us to be swept away with them. It’s easy to see why he has already achieved some prestigious accolades, including a Best Director at BFI Future Shorts nomination for his debut short Throw Me to the Dogs, and another nomination at BAFTA Cymru for this last short Meat on Bones, and now Bitter Sky makes for a very decent hat trick and deserves all the praise it will surely get.