Written and directed by #JamesHastings
In 1963, Lucy (Emily Highams) is taken in the middle of the night to a mysterious facility in Heaven, where she is reunited with her grandfather (Jestyn Phillips) for a day. Fun and fantastical, Off The Coast is a light-hearted and somewhat clichéd narrative about pursuing dreams and never giving up on your loved ones.
Lucy is an aspiring author who is consumed by grief after losing of her grandfather. Her parents are not coping well in the aftermath of his death, which arguably has a negative effect on their family unit as a whole. With grief manifesting itself in different ways, Highams gives an emotive performance of a child coming of age in a confusing world with few answers.
Being taken to Heaven against her will appears to be unethical and creepy in this context, especially because Lucy is actually still alive. Despite this, the concept of the afterlife is interesting and not one commonly explored on screen. Lucy is given a guest pass for the day, whilst entering Heaven, as though she is observing visiting hours at an old people’s home that is under a prison lockdown. Everyone is dressed in uniforms in the setting of a giant mansion, like a type of upper class ‘rich’ heaven – except the deceased traipse about in pyjamas. Both dead and living are represented in unusual ways, with so-called ‘paradise’ appearing comfortable but only intensifying with uneasiness throughout the twenty-minute short.
The dynamic between Highams and Phillips is that of a sweet and fun relationship between granddaughter and grandfather who have a mutual love of storytelling. Although a passion for stories shines through, the timeframe of the film itself could have been clearer. Suffice to say, the inventive and varied cinematography played into this abstract plot well, contributing to a trippy sense of timelessness. Likewise, the score seeks to guide the viewer from a false sense of security back to reality.
What is highlighted by film creator James Hastings is the actual power of grief and bereavement that uniquely sparks the imagination. Bearing witness to one last bit of fun that Lucy is permitted to share with her grandfather is a bittersweet reminder of the importance of endings in every story - fiction or not.
Off The Coast makes an appeal to encourage others to stop waiting around and to keep dreaming, which is ultimately an uplifting message.
Available to watch on YouTube in the UK now.