Updated: Aug 20, 2019
Directed by: #SerenaChloeGardner
Grace (Evelyn Lockley) lives with her mother Cathy (Kate Lock) who is suffering with severe mental health issues. Times are testing as Cathy refuses to take her medication and Grace must subsequently manage the situation to the best of her ability.
Blackout opens with a violent and potentially life-threatening encounter as Cathy attempts to smother Grace with a cushion before threatening to kill her and throwing her untouched box of medication at her head. This immediately gives us an introduction to Cathy’s disturbed mental state and the effects of which Grace must endure on a daily basis. Cathy is evidently mentally unstable and suffering from delusions, possibly hallucinations, believing that she is being monitored and has been given a mission by MI5 that she must enact. Meanwhile, Grace must appease her mother’s delusions, a particularly draining and taxing existence.
The #cinematography captures this relationship dynamic perfectly. The camera effortlessly roams freely and is in no way restricted as it follows the restless Cathy and the sudden impulses in her head whilst an exasperated Grace does her best to keep up. Blackout’s DoP and director Serena Chloe Gardner made an excellent technical choice that subsequently helps to shape the creative aspects of the short; the visual language matches the tone and energy, demonstrating thoughtful and intelligent behind-the-scenes talent.
The talent in front of the camera is also equally impressive as both Kate Lock and Evelyn Lockley are magnificent in their respective roles. The character of Cathy faces many challenges it would be very easy to make her a caricature without an ounce of integrity. However, Lock’s performance hits all the right notes and the actress avoids the risk of portraying Cathy as a stereotypical sufferer of mental health. She I, at times, truly worrisome as her condition increasingly causes her to behave irrationally and out of character, but we never lose sympathy for her troubled state. Lockley as Grace is just as effective, excellently conveying the fear and desperation that the character faces during her every waking moment. Both leading ladies deliver memorable performances and elevate the drama beyond what’s written on the page.
Blackout has no particular plot or narrative beats that it hits in its under 10-minute runtime. The story offers us a glimpse of Cathy at her worst as she attempts to convince Grace of the mission she has been set. We get the sense that these events are leading up to something but, when the conclusion eventually arrives, it’s predictable, unconvincing and rushed in comparison to the rest of the film’s pacing. However, the two leads sell the finale with a fierce commitment that makes you want to forgive it for its flaws.
Although Blackout as a #shortfilm may fall at the final hurdle and require a more fleshed out script, its strong performances and acute creative instincts show promise for director Serena Chloe Gardner.