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Director: Tom Smith Starring: Kate Louise Turner, Emma Loveday, Paul Lawless Short film review by Monica Jowett

This short drama from director, producer and screenwriter Tom Smith is evocative as it follows Mollie (Kate Louise Turner) who is suffering in an abusive relationship at the hands of her girlfriend Ashley (Emma Loveday). Mollie fears for her safety and continues to feel uncomfortable in what should be a loving and supportive partnership.

The short film opens to a close up of Mollie as she is lying awake in bed, looking almost as though she is scared of falling asleep next to Ashley. The following scene shows the couple talking about weekend plans, hinting that not all is right as Mollie is upset to find out Ashley is not available, and once Ashley leaves she gingerly touches a bruise showing on her chest. Visiting her concerned brother Charlie (Paul Lawless) she opens up about what has been happening to her. It is shown later on that Ashley becomes increasingly aggressive and physical with Mollie especially when fuelled by alcohol, and Mollie is quite defenceless.

The careful scriptwriting from Smith shows how what is left unsaid carries as much weight as when Ashley taunts her girlfriend, verbally swearing and yelling at her. The use of close ups shots on Mollie throughout the short film, also used as a bookend, draws us closer to how Mollie really feels, as we see her tired and pale features closer and the impact the abuse is having.

Turner, as Mollie, portrays the quiet hurt of people suffering from domestic violence and who feel incapable of getting out of it. As part of a lesbian couple, Smoke demonstrates how domestic violence is not just relevant to heterosexual couples, and can occur in any type of relationship. Mollie’s screams of frustration are directed at herself, as she clearly knows she can be in a better situation, but as she says to her brother ‘I can’t leave her,’ a mantra that is frequent in domestic abusive relationships, as they are afraid of what may happen. Turner gives a powerful performance as Mollie and her frailty is easy to sympathise with. However, in the final scene she shows a glimpse of the strength she has as she smiles, driving away from the pain and hurt she has faced.

Smoke is an affecting short film that highlights the effect of domestic violence, from the victims standpoint but also gives reflection into the cause of the abuse as we glimpse Ashley pleading with Charlie. As Smoke focuses on a lesbian couple, the short film reinforces the universal nature of these troubling themes.

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