Directed by Phil Drinkwater and Tim Woodall Starring Rupert Hill, Siobhan Finneran, & David Bradley Short Film Review by Evie Brudenall
Grief is a popular topic to explore in film, especially during the latter part of 2016 and early 2017 with Hollywood hits such as A Monster Calls and Manchester by the Sea. Written and directed by Phil Drinkwater and Tim Woodall, Broadcast Signal Intrusion also deals with the sensitive subject but has neither the fantastical or comedic touches that the aforementioned pictures do – instead Broadcast Signal Intrusion relies on straight-up psychological thrills.
Haunted by visions of the death of a loved one, James (Rupert Hill) leads a lonely existence and is emotionally withdrawn. After stumbling across a disturbing video tape, James is invigorated to discover more about it, convinced that it is in some way connected to his tragic loss.
The opening of Broadcast Signal Intrusion is a powerful one. A young woman stands on top of a building, overlooking a city landscape and teetering very close to the edge. Clad in white with auburn hair and piercing green eyes, she is the visual epitome of purity and innocence. However, there is a beauty to the brutality of this image and as she takes the fatal step forward, James is startled into consciousness. It’s just a dream, but we soon discover that it was indeed a reality and he continues to live with the aftermath of her death. James goes to work in a miserable basement, routinely and mindlessly spending the hours away in dire conditions until he inserts the mysterious tape into the TV, renewing him with a sense of purpose. Even though it clearly damages his psyche further and can hardly be called the healthiest approach to spicing up his dreary life.
Broadcast Signal Intrusion has assembled a truly and almightily impressive cast that consists of some of Britain’s finest actors. Siobhan Finneran, best known for her comedic work in ITV’s Benidorm and Sally Wainwright’s BBC drama Happy Valley, inputs a minor supporting role as a fellow member of James’ support group and her character verbalises all of the feelings that James is unable to express. Meanwhile, David Bradley, noted for his role as Finch in the Harry Potter series, is wonderfully understated as James’ father who is caring but emotionally out-of-tune with his son. However, I must admit, it was strange to see Bradley out of the Hogwarts castle and unaccompanied by his devoted feline, Mrs Norris. The real standout is undeniably Rupert Hill as the bereaved protagonist; Although he seldom speaks until the film’s climactic third act, Hill does a fantastic job at portraying sorrow through physicality and he conveys the most pained emotions through his defeated presence and drained eyes.
Grief is not only captured by the performance of the lead actor, but the perpetual state of sadness is reflected in the visual style. As James talks to his father on the phone, his father is centred in a bright space whilst James is placed against the backdrop of his dark, un-homely abode. It’s aesthetically evident that one of these characters has overcome grief whilst the other one is completely consumed by it. Additionally, the non-diegetic music is extremely fitting with the sombre tone and peppering of thrills and scares, as the throbbing bass notes begin to bubble as James inches closer to what he thinks is the truth. To really capitalise on this psychological excitement, the film could have benefited from a longer running time to ramp up those final moments and ensure audiences are wholly gripped as opposed to the casual interest that Broadcast Signal Intrusion occasionally settles for.
A master class for aspiring filmmakers of short stories about the importance of casting and visual storytelling, Broadcast Signal Intrusion just falls short of greatness and is not afforded the room to develop and breathe that it so sorely needs.