Directed by: Antony Spina Starring: Alexander Mandrides, Angela Peters, Antony Spina, Mark Wynter Short Film Review by: Darren Tilby
The tragic consequences of mental illness all too often make front-page news, and yet, despite several high-profile deaths in recent years and a slew of ad campaigns, sufferers of mental illness are still stigmatised in the press, and sometimes, even medically; being met with scepticism, ignorance, even hostility.
Sad Little Boy serves as a warning of the intense pain, and sense of abandonment depression instills in those afflicted by it; a thorough, frank and devastating examination of mental illness.
We follow Del (Alexander Mandrides), who – in the midst of a bad break up with his now ex, Carla (Angela Peters) – has been sent home from work early again due to concerns for his health. As Del converses on the phone with best friend Craig (Voiced by Antony Spina), two things are clear:
Firstly, Del is not doing well; having not eaten or slept since being dumped over the phone.
Secondly, Del doesn’t want to inconvenience anybody and is reluctant to ask for help, stating: “...I’m not some stupid, sad little boy…”
This sort of response is typical for those with depression and is a recurring theme throughout the film; being handled here with real nous. Asking for help is one of the most important steps to recovery, as well as one of the hardest things to do, so it’s really great to see a film frankly, but respectfully broach this tricky subject.
Tonally, the film plays out like a horror; an expertly crafted dark, suffocating atmosphere of looming abandonment, with Del being tormented by an unforeseen malevolent force, rapidly slipping into madness as he begins to fall apart (beautifully visualised by the slow-motion shattering of a wine bottle), arguing fiercely with himself in scenes reminiscent of those with Golem in The Lord of the Rings films.
The film creates its horror movie ambience through the skilful use of sound, framing and editing: the low droning hum of the film's understated soundtrack, coupled with a clever use of silence and sharply cut editing, builds tension and creates an environment where every minute seems to stretch on for hours, whilst framing seemingly mundane objects (a gate, a picture frame) in an uneven and crooked manner and bathing the scene in a dull, muted blue lustre gives Del's house a palpable sense of desertion; mirroring his psyche.
Sad Little Boy is a difficult film to watch, but for all the right reasons. Its brutally honest approach to an incredibly sensitive subject and dour atmosphere may well be enough to turn some people away, but if you stick with it, I promise it's worth it. If you had to pick faults, they can be found, but there's nothing considerable here and certainly nothing immersion breaking. A thoroughly educational and important piece of filmmaking.