★★★★ Directed by: Louise Marie Cooke Written by: Louise Marie Cooke Starring: Ashleigh Cordery, Miranda Horn LGBT Film Review by: Chris Olson
Coming of age in the current millennium is a troublesome topic. The rise of childhood-influencing technology (internet, smartphones, robot vacuum cleaners) and its detrimental effects is yet to be fully understood, which is why filmmaker Louise Marie Cooke’s short film Pillow Talk is a particularly interesting piece. By setting her story in the 90’s, she offers characters who are experiencing a way of life no longer available yet whose identities still battle the same, enduring issues.
Ashleigh Cordery plays Cara, a rock n’ roll girl who prefers Nirvana over Take That and hard liquor over “girly drinks”. It is Cara’s orientational preferences that interests her BFF Lucy (Miranda Horn), though, who wants to unearth the mystery surrounding her friend's sexual predilection even if it means jeopardizing their relationship.
Astutely intimate and containing wonderful, believable characters, Cooke's short film is a timeless journey of self discovery and friendship. Whilst the window may be brief, we witness a beautiful moment of connection that transcends the shallow concepts of social media and the like, and harks back to a time where the clarity of one’s identity could only be found by challenging yourself and those you cared about. By risking the bond they have, Lucy is able to form and even stronger, almost tangible one.
LGBT stories can often be laden with an element of confused frustration, in particular surrounding one character, in this case Cara. Cordery plays this spectacularly. She rides the changing landscape of her character's emotions with deft aplomb, assuming the highs of her friendship with Lucy right next to coping with the depths of her uncertainty as to who she is and what she wants. Horn is similarly excellent in the role of catalyst and provocateur, which is delivered with tenderness rather than stark brutality. The chemistry is generously gentle between the two performers who benefit from a script which avoids clunky dialogue or baffling cliches.
A lot of attention to detail has gone into Pillow Talk and the mise en scéne is utterly superb if you grew up during the 90’s. A copy of Smash Hits and a retro Polaroid camera will be enough to melt the heart of any grunge rocker or britpop enthusiast. Coupled with the brilliant sets, lighting and costume design, Cooke utilises some impressive cinematography to immerse the viewer into her narrative. Whilst there is only one location, the soft and delicate editing by Neil Fergusson keeps the piece from feeling static but rather fluid and intimate, perfectly complementing the tone of the story.
A tale for the ages, then, or perhaps a cautionary one for individuals seeking for a more genuine human experience to help them explore their own identity. Pillow Talk, whilst covering familiar ground, is friendship at its most fierce and a compelling piece of cinema.