Joel short film review

★★★

Directed by: #MattGreen

Written by: #JamesFroment

Starring: #BenHanley, #MaxSandiford, #SophiaTalbot

Film review by William Hemingway



The face of a teenage boy stares vacantly to the side where the film's title and cast are listed.
Film poster for Joel

Joel (Hanley) is dealing with the loss of his mum. Joel's dad (Sandiford) is trying to deal with the loss too, but they are both doing it in very different ways. Joel's dad has become withdrawn as well as bitter and angry; Joel has taken to wearing make-up. There is no communication left in the household and Grandma (Talbot) has had to step in as a keeper of the peace. Times are dark in Joel's life and the acceptance and love that he used to feel just isn't there any more. He needs a way to remember and to express the loss that he feels.

In writer James Froment and director Matt Green's short film we see in intimate scenes how the fall-out from his mother's death has affected Joel and his family. The entire six minutes of the film is taken up by close encounters in enclosed spaces where tensions run high and nobody can hide, or escape, from each other. Joel gets no affection or understanding from his father but luckily has Grandma there to fight his corner and show him that he is still loved. However, the entire scenario feels and plays out like it is only a snapshot from a bigger picture; a small piece of a far more encompassing puzzle that we never get to see or guess at, and that is the film's downfall.

There is no hint at the wider story involved here. We, as viewers, are woefully left out of the loop when it comes to family history, character motivation or the contextualisation of scenario; we don't even find out how Joel's mother died. This lack of detail and story background transfers to a lack of investment from the viewer and severely limits how much one can take away from the film. That's not to say that what's there isn't any good, just that it doesn't reach beyond the confines of its own six minutes and therefore doesn't offer any real statement, drive or intent behind what is shown on the screen.

The film itself is quite well made, with well lit scenes, assured direction and emotive acting, although the sound editing on the dialogue is set at far too low a volume level. It is quite an accomplished short film that highlights the talents of the film-makers and the cast but sadly doesn't go anywhere beyond that.

Joel's story (or at least this part of it) is one that must resonate with numerous others who have gone through similar situations and who can empathise with the events and decisions he faces, but there is nothing to explain or explore in this film that hasn't been said a thousand times before and therefore Joel has nothing to stand it out from the rest of the pack. It feels like there is so much more to tell in Joel's story but in the end what we are left with just feels like a missed opportunity.