Directed by Mark J. Blackman
Starring Richard Cordery, Navin Chowdhry
Short Film Review by George Nash
No longer able to get out by his own accord, retired former University lecturer Michael (Richard Cordery), spends his days alone at his home trying to contact his daughter who has recently emigrated Down Under. Thoroughly individual on the surface, he ventures out on occasion to the local pub or nearby corner shop, chauffeured there by new cab driver Ahmed (Navin Chowdhry). The small talk soon manifests as something far deeper and more meaningful for both men; where the power of kindness illuminates the darkness of solitude.
Directed by Mark J. Blackman, and written and produced by Drew Gepp and Ollie Watts - the duo behind Twice Cut Films – Ferried is a quietly powerful and unassuming work of cinematic artistry. At its core, this is a poignant and necessary examination of loneliness, that aims to foreground the subject of old age isolation as a growing social issue, and pierce its bleakness with uplifting moments of friendship and kindness to showcase the underlying power carried by such acts.
Visually, Ferried establishes its agenda from the outset. The film opens with lingering shots of rolling green countryside to the mellow acoustics of Richard Keyworth’s score, before cutting to the figure of the elderly Michael sat at the foot of his stairs, on the end of a telephone call that is never answered. Blackman’s patient commencing frames construct a world which for Michael is both vast and empty; a place where both literally and figuratively, his voice goes unheard. “You’re not Barry” – Michael’s first words of dialogue in the film upon meeting his new cab driver, Ahmed, for the first time, are delivered with an almost childlike directness and serve as a further indication of Michael’s increasing unfamiliarity and distance from the world he exists in.
It’s an impressively measured and careful opening construction of a man attempting to internalise his pain, but Blackman appropriately makes no assumptions on such subject matter; instead quickly formulating an almost enigmatic tone and minimalist style that is clung to resolutely throughout the piece. Character development is slowly drip-fed to us through means of small talk and suggestive sub-plots of wives and estranged daughters, as unbeknownst to even himself, Michael’s vulnerability and desperation gradually etches across his face through a combination of tired, longing looks and Blackman’s masterful understanding of how silence can often speak volumes. Through subtle irony, however, in the absence of the family that fuels Michael’s loneliness, the presence of that very same family in conversation is what ultimately reconnects him to the world.
And to Michael (played with an understated intelligence and respect by Richard Cordery whose previous credits include notable film, television, and theatre appearances), that world comes in the form of Navin Chowdhry’s warm and good-natured Ahmed. Be it simple conversation starters or offers of dinner leftovers, Ahmed’s acts of compassion and kindness never feel emotionally manipulative (as might be the temptation) and always feel totally plausible. Naturalism – in both direction and writing - are the key strengths here in creating a narrative that is outwardly simple, but altogether more evocative, meaningful and ultimately heartbreaking underneath. Perhaps where the film falls down then, is during the few times when it attempts to break such modesty – in particular, one random visual anecdote about a stag-do which, running against the tonal, visual and aural grain of the film, feels like an over-baked attempt at humorous relief which, while it might induce laughter, for the most part struggles to be little more than an artificially engineered, mid-point time filling device.
Delicately dealing with issues that transcend the narrative they are examined through, Ferried, quite appropriately, is very much about the journey, not the destination.