Written and Directed by Dev Seth
Starring Peter Svatik, Amelia Eve, Sam Dunning, Ryan Graham, Nadezda Maksimenko
Short Film Review by Hannah Sayer
Is true love accepting someone for who they are or trying to help them by pushing them out of their comfort zone? This is the lasting question which Dev Seth’s debut short film NICOLA – A Touching Story asks the viewer to consider.
The short film takes place in the home of newly married couple Leon (Peter Svatik) and Nicola (Amelia Eve). Leon has invited his friends Ryan (Ryan Graham) and Nadya (Nadezda Maksimenko) to their new home and the film opens with the three friends getting along well, happy and enjoying their evening. However while they’re all having a good time, Nicola is in another part of the house alone. As Ryan and Nadya are leaving they wait to say goodbye to Nicola who returns acting fidgety, anxious and avoiding eye contact with the couple. Ryan goes to hug Nicola, thinking that this is the right course of action when interacting with someone who is upset, but she pushes him away and runs off. This causes Ryan and Nadya’s suspicions to increase as they are very concerned by Nicola’s strange and unexplained behaviour. A few days after this intense evening a conversation between Nicola and Leon reveals to the viewer that Nicola is in fact suffering from a rare phobia called haphephobia.
Haphephobia is the fear of touching or being touched and the short film highlights the impacts this phobia is having on Nicola’s life, especially on her relationship with Leon. After this conversation between the couple, Nicola is alone at home when an intruder Michael (Sam Dunning) who pretends to be there to look at their boiler enters her home and begins terrorising her. What follows is a tense encounter which climaxes with a revelation about the root of Nicola’s trauma and a breakthrough.
The confined setting of the house adds to the intensity in the second half of the film as the home invasion takes place. The use of blurry shots can be disorientating for the viewer and the cinematography often reinforces Nicola’s state of mind, especially when used in this way during flashbacks to the traumatic event. The use of slow motion adds to this intensity when touching is taking place to reinforce the fear this brings to Nicola. The shooting style and aesthetic of the short is realistic yet the haunting music juxtaposes this. The music adds to the eerie atmosphere from the outset and makes the viewer question what is really wrong with Nicola when the short film has not gone into detail about her battle with haphephobia. By not disclosing Nicola’s condition to the viewer during her initial interaction with Leon’s guests, their suspicions and the uncertainty as to what is going on successfully reinforces this sinister and tense atmosphere from the outset.
Overall, NICOLA – A Touching Story is a well-acted and intriguing short film which explores an important subject within an intense and gripping story.