Directed by: #NicoleJonesDion
Written by: #JeffLocker
Scars, the latest short film to be directed by Nicole Jones-Dion, focuses on the mental health troubles of Lucy (Frances Brennand Roper), a young woman assigned to a psychiatric hospital. With a running time of only 9 minutes and 27 seconds including credits, the film chooses to play out the action in a single room, centred mostly on Lucy’s interaction with a mysterious, unnamed man, played by the writer of the film, Jeff Locker.
Portraying mental health issues on screen is a task which comes with a certain amount of responsibility for those involved. Even if a writer or director draws directly from their own experience when making a film about such a topic, they will invariably be touching on personal issues for audience members, too.
With this being said, Scars completely fails to offer up a considered, sensitive, thought provoking presentation of mental health issues. Rather than trying to delve introspectively into the human complexity of mental illness, Scars instead simply offers up a lot of screaming and crying as if this constitutes emotional depth. The film never really offers any psychological insight or asks any intelligent questions, nor does it build emotion slowly in an attempt to get its audience to empathise with the characters of Lucy and The Man. Instead, it chooses to serve up a surface level approach to the topic of mental health, verging almost on tasteless stereotypes. In particular, the character of Lucy seems to have been built purely on a general impression of what a ‘crazy’ person might look like, her appearance all ragged hair and sunken eyes, rather than a thoughtful presentation of how a mentally unwell person might act and feel. While it is true that the purpose of the film is to present Lucy’s “nightmare” situation, the film simply comes across as lacking true compassion and thorough contemplation. One particular assertion by the character of Dr. Graves (Gregory Shelby) that Lucy is ‘hopeless’ is particularly jarring.
What’s more, Scars is particularly disappointing because of Jones-Dion’s obvious talent as a director. From the very first slow, suspenseful zoom shot of the doors to Lucy’s room, Jones-Dion builds an eerie atmosphere. The scenes between the two principal characters are well directed, the camera keeping close to their faces and movements so as to create a genuinely intimate feel which heightens the emotion. Furthermore, the camera work in scenes between Lucy and The Man is often intentionally disorientating, shot from strange angles or with an unsteady focus so as to unnerve the audience. Meanwhile, the work of cinematographer Rachel Wyn Dunn is also highly praiseworthy, as Scars’ grey, gloomy aesthetic compliments it’s unsettling mood.
Nevertheless, even though the film is well constructed, it’s overall concept causes it to flounder. Jones-Dion clearly knew her intention with this film and executed it efficiently, but the ultimate problem is that this intention was misguided.