Directed by Ashley Belgrave
Written by Colm Field
Starring Seb Humphreys, Hilary Derrett, & Kathryn Hamilton-Hall
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
Told with a kind of Big Little Lies approach of talking heads, short film Leticia Drowned from director Ashley Belgrave, is a gripping psychological drama about a recent death at a school, and the subsequent interviews between the students and a counsellor Zoe (Hilary Derrett). As the various teenagers are questioned, one stoic student called Joshua (Seb Humphreys) seems particularly interesting, especially when he begins to display sociopathic tendencies.
High schools often provide a buffet of cliched storylines due to their microcosmic environments, frenetic hormonal traits for characters, and the coming-of-age landscapes populated by insecurities. That is not really the case in Leticia Drowned, however, as something far more menacing seems to permeate the atmosphere, most notably enhanced by Humphreys' performance, which is subtle and affecting. The characters are delivered mostly through static close-up shots which prevent the audience from feeling able to put the bigger picture together, and also makes the plot feel more intimately on the side of the school kids, when it could have just as easily been the colder, distant approach of so many crime dramas where the cops are the focus.
The sound design at times was really effective, in particular a sequence involve water which was startling. However, at other times the sound was noticeably uneven and amateurish. The volume jumps erratically, and there was an attempt to overlay voices which ended up being hugely distracting. Also, the end credits music was totally jarring which was a shame.
Cinematically the short film felt impressive, and Belgrave proves capable of avoiding too many televisual stylings, instead occupying a more filmic space. The tone was darker, the characters more intriguing, and the exposition was kept minimal. The sharp editing was a nice touch too, letting the peaks of conflict be slightly enhanced and keeping the audience in a state of uncertainty.
A notable performance alongside Humphreys was Derrett. Her chemistry with Joshua is a delightful watch, especially as it develops through the different stages of the short. Kathryn Hamilton-Hall who plays Joshua's mum Eleanor also turns in a striking scene which is ladened with intrigue and dramatic flair.
Aside from a few technical let downs and a lack of attention to supporting characters, Leticia Drowned is a formidable psychological drama with suspense to spare, capable of gluing the viewer from the opening frames to the thrilling climax.