Directed by Phil Sheerin Starring Barry Keoghan, Emer McCourt,
Janie Booth, & Des McAleer
Short film review by Chris Olson
Intensely emotional and gripping, Phil Sheerin’s short film, North, is a beautifully crafted drama about a young man called Aaron (Barry Keoghan) who is having to witness the devastating effects of his mother’s (Janie Booth) illness as it ravages her health. To add further distress to this poor lad, he also has to stomach the seemingly jovial attitude of his family around him, as they attempt to put a light spin on this dark situation.
The setting is a rural farm, isolated and stark, much like the experience of Aaron as he tries to cope with his mother’s failing health. Everyday life seems to be continuing around him, but this now seems terribly alien. Aaron’s numerous attempts to convince his mother to take her medication are met with stoic refusals, leaving him a boiling pot of rage and fear. He lashes out at those around him, even kicking a dog in one particularly shocking sequence. Family members make jokes and engage in light-hearted banter at the kitchen table, which enrages Aaron further.
There is an emotional depth to Sheerin’s film which comes across wonderfully in the delicate framing of many scenes. There is a tenderness to the way that Aaron is portrayed, a character whom the audience will instantly sympathise with. Whilst his emotions get the better of him at times, no one can deny the cruel hand he has been dealt and the frustration he must be feeling at not being able to express it to those around him. One terrific scene has the camera slowly zooming out on him sitting in an armchair in the corner of the room, revealing the rest of his family laughing merrily together.
When Aaron does engage with his family members, it is filled with coarse language and aggression. Des McAleer who plays Uncle Richard, delivers a powerful speech as he challenges Aaron’s behaviour, commenting on the hopelessness of the illness which is taking Aaron’s mother. All performances in this short film are of a high standard, especially Keoghan who tackles the emotional depth of Aaron with fierce dedication.
The sombre tone and affecting nature of North may not suit all audiences, especially given Sheerin’s penchant for maintaining an isolating atmosphere throughout. But for those film lovers who enjoy breathtaking filmmaking and gritty storylines, North is a short film to be reckoned with. It will also feature at this year's Cork Film Festival!