Directed by: #DarrenJamesKing
A topical short film, #SoftHands tells the story of Kieran, a college student struggling to find a way to reveal his homosexuality to his aggressive and traditionally-minded father. This film has power because it explores a situation so many struggle with, though there are some casting and scripting issues.
An abrupt opening introduces us to Kieran and his partner Joe who are being harassed by some louts throwing eggs. We come to understand that Kieran and Joe are regularly taunted by these boys for their sexuality, though it appears that few other people in their world realise their relationship exists. We see this bullying and homophobia escalate later in the film when Joe is attacked in the college toilets, in a scene which really does have you on the edge of your seat as the attackers begin to strip Joe, and the fear of what might happen to him is quite overwhelming (we have all read horror stories of the kind of abuse some homosexual men have been subjected to in the news). However, the casting here undermines the scenario a little – the actors and the ages they are supposed to play are a little too old for some of the bullying antics, including ‘egging’ and a bizarre moment when Kieran is pressured into kissing a girl who is apparently very willing to be kissed by him. It all feels a little naive somehow and whilst there is of course a chance this sort of scenario could play out in real life, I think an examination of college students today would highlight some very different homophobic behaviours.
Having said that, the family drama in this film is hugely compelling and well-scripted. We witness the strained dynamics between grandfather, father and son and it is well-crafted by actors who clearly know what they're doing. #DeanKilbey puts in a great performance as Kieran's Dad, which some might label with the ‘traditional cockney boxer’ cliché but is actually incredibly nuanced as we watch his own insecurities slowly come to the fore. This character’s development and eventual acceptance of his son’s sexuality – something which clearly terrifies him yet which he is prepared to defend with his fists – is well scripted and performed. There is no big ‘I’m sorry, son’ scene with a crescendo of music and gushing hugs: the ending and reconciliation of father and son is much more subtle than that and all the more touching and genuine as a result.
This film has been nominated for several awards including in specific #LGTBQ categories and this is well deserved due to its topical relevance and the examination of family dynamics in these situations. The editing is clean and professional, with flashback used powerfully in places, particularly when Kieran’s own anger comes out in his bedroom scene, and the tension created during family scenes is palpable and a credit to those actors. Well worth a look.