Directed by: #TomSmith
Film Review by: #AnitaMarkoff
Change skilfully intertwines the stories of two of society’s most vulnerable women. Sex workers and homeless people are often marginalised out of fear and misunderstanding, but Tom Smith utilises close ups and silences to draw the viewers into their world. Sympathy is created for the #homeless woman from the very opening shot, as she fills the frame, brushing tears from her eyes and holding her plastic cup with a visibly trembling hand. This is a woman from a demographic that people walking down the street avert their eyes from and avoid, but Tom Smith forces us to acknowledge her humanity through long shots of her most private moments. Struggling to beg for change. Crying in a stranger’s bathtub, hair wet. Surrounded by white empty spaces, emphasizing her innocence and also loneliness.
The same is true for the sex worker, Scarlett. The struggles these two women face are linked together through several juxtapositioned shots. In one significant scene we jump from the a close up of the front lit homeless woman Amy with tears in her eyes, to a similarly lit close up of Scarlett staring hopelessly into the distance as a man undresses in the background. Their eyes hold the same expression.
Scarlett’s profession is not sexualised or glamorised like in Pretty Woman or Young & Beautiful. Her nakedness is often positioned next to mirrors and windows, symbols of the ways in which she is constantly being watched and consumed. This makes her appear vulnerable, and the intimacy of these shots builds the viewer’s sense of unease with how she is being forced to live. The use of a shaky handheld camera also heightens the personal nature of the film, and increases the tension as the audience is unable to feel distanced from the danger and fear these women face in their attempts to help each other.
The only drawback of short film Change is the interactions between the female leads when they are alone. When faced with the threat of violence from men, whether a shopkeeper or a pimp, the acting is skilful, and the dialogue is realistic. However, when the women have conversations in private, their exchanges feel wooden and forced. Perhaps this can serve to highlight the ways even struggling women are often pitted against each other in society, and the underlying message of the film that two disempowered women cannot save each other. Only we, the hopefully more privileged audience, can do that.