Powerless short film review

★★★★★

Directed by: #NicolePott

Written by: #NicolePott

Starring: #KatieMarieCarter, #EllisHollins

Film Review by: Darren Tilby



Powerless is quite an ironic title for a film which contains such powerful championing of both youth services and the human spirit. Here, writer/director Nicole Pott, who also directed the excellent short film, Kaleidoscope, weaves together a poignant story of hope born out of tragedy, and of perseverance wrought from despair.


Modern-day Manchester and Clara and Dan (sister and brother) live alone, after the death of their mother, on one of Manchester’s many housing estates. As young adults, they’re both at a very vulnerable stage in life, and the film does a great job of showing the contrast between aspiration (Clara) and resignation (Dan). Both obviously come from the same working-class background and have likely had to suffer the same griefs. What is different, however, is how they’ve both processed that trauma: Clara has processed it well and channels it into boxing, whereas Dan hasn’t and has got involved in drugs. And soon, tragedy strikes the siblings once again.


It’s a story we’ve all seen in the news at least a few times over the years - the devastation of knife crime and gang violence. What Pott manages to do really well here, is to articulate how essential our youth services are in the fight against rising knife and gang violence, and just how significant an effect these services have on our young people’s lives. It’s a passionate cry for support on a hugely critical issue, without it ever feeling overstated.


The writing and direction are superb and clearly comes from an intimate understanding of the film’s setting and the issues surrounding places like it. A social-cultural understanding that Fraser Oxlee’s camerawork captures and portrays with meticulous detail and almost pinpoint accuracy. The performances too are excellent and, aided by the outstanding dialogue, exude realism. Clara (Katie Marie-Carter) and Dan (Ellis Hollins) are wholly sympathetic, well-written characters, while David Howell puts in a brilliant supporting role as Clara’s boxing coach, Johnny.

It all means that within the movie’s 18-minute run-time, we’re left feeling that we understand these people; the hopelessness so many of them must feel, and the desperation felt by those trying to help. And, while Powerless is undeniably heart-breaking with some unrelenting, gut-punch moments (at least one of which had me with a lump in my throat), it’s hard not to feel uplifted by the beauty of its message; of the human spirit’s ability to endure through anything.


Knife crime is a hot-topic issue at the moment, and for a movie to tackle this head-on with such a forthright approach, then find something beautiful out of a situation so horrific is quite remarkable. Powerless is a fantastic film; a triumph of British filmmaking. One that deserves as big an audience as possible.