Directed by: #RobHurtt
Written by: #RobHurtt
A common way in which to disparage a film’s quality is to label it as having fallen into the trap of being ‘style over substance’. However, while this is often a valid critique of a feature length film, a short film can get away with indulging in stylishness simply by virtue of its length – an engaging plot is a far more pressing requirement over the span of 90 minutes than it is over 10 minutes. This characteristic of the short film genre is nowhere more present than in Rob Hurtt’s Soho Sunset, which successfully remains sleek and bizarre enough to disguise its somewhat insufficient subject matter.
The film is primarily but loosely centred around a conversation between Violetta, a woman who has run away from home, and Franco, the man who has tracked her down to the seedy strip club where she now works. This conversation takes up the vast majority of the film’s running time, and so naturally you would think that it is essential to the film that this conversation is engaging. But, while Soho Sunset does remain compelling, it does this in spite of its unremarkable dialogue. The conversation is often awkward, such as in the clunky and unnatural moment in which Violetta recites a song lyric. This awkwardness, combined with the fact that the relationship between these two characters isn’t at all made clear, should be more than enough to make Soho Sunset somewhat dull. Nevertheless, the performances from the two central characters keep the film energised; in particular, Paul Kelleher deserves much credit for his effortless screen presence. He brings a natural quality to his performance which ensures that the drama remains intriguing, even when it isn’t exactly inspired.
However, in spite of these insufficiencies, Hurtt’s agenda with Soho Sunset was clearly to make a film in the most enjoyable cinematic fashion. The atmosphere created in every scene seems designed in an effort to experiment with different styles – the sentiment of slow, operatic loneliness of the opening couldn’t be more different from the neon noir of the nightclub’s interior, or the darkly surreal sleaziness of the film’s conclusion. Though these varying aesthetics jar against each other somewhat, Hurtt clearly enjoys testing new ideas and subverting the audience’s expectations, and he leaves the fate of Franco ambiguous enough that it causes you to pause for thought once the film is finally over. This ultimately means that, even if it never amounts to a coherent whole, there is enough originality and character embedded within Soho Sunset to make you feel as if it was worth watching.