Directed by Sophie Black
Written by Sophie Black and Tommy Draper
Starring Jonny McPherson and Holly Rushbrooke
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
How do you make a home invasion movie seem charmingly romantic? Well you make the intruder a quirky, free-spirited teenage girl called Mary (Holly Rushbrooke), and the victim Kent (Jonny McPherson) a softly-spoken shut-in who desperately needs his horizons broadening. Wrap it all up with a delightful acoustic soundtrack and intimate framing and a cosy story doth you have.
Such are the ingredients of short film Night Owls, directed by Sophie Black (who also co-writes with Tommy Draper), a disarming and enjoyable piece that throws two characters together and enjoys the chemical reaction which ensues. As the tale unwinds for the audience, glimpses are offered of each character's backstory and home life but never so much as to veer away from the connection that is obviously forming between these two unlikely people.
The setting is equally as vital in delivering the visual warmth that emanates from the characters. Set mostly inside Kent's cluttered living room, objects and paraphernalia of all kind surround this blossoming friendship that outshines all of the external forces that would try to prevent it. Old vinyl records are played, a large rug is utilised as a makeshift duvet, and the pair seem unwanting of anything other than each other's company...and maybe some smokes. As the two engage in some revelatory discussions about their lives and feelings, the world seems to focus like a perfect moment in time.
As a short film, Night Owls is watertight, using the medium's limited run time to ignore unnecessary exposition and instead balancing all its elements with the goal of capturing the essence of the dynamic between Kent and Marry. This is then complemented by using soft lighting and gentle cuts to highlight the tenderness of the story. It shows masterful craftwork by filmmaker Sophie Black.
The performances are both strong and viewers will enjoy the repartee. However it is McPherson who proves most enigmatic in his portrayal of the troubled reclusive. Audiences could easily enjoy minutes more of his mournful meanderings. That being said, Rushbrooke delivers some much needed tenacity to certain sequences, from her soaking wet introduction and request to enter Kent's home (after being caught trying to pick the lock), to her effortless dancing in his living room.
Whilst there is nothing hugely original about Night Owls, this is undeniably a case of a good story being told well. The enduring themes and picturesque aesthetic make it a beautiful film to behold.