Directed by Joseph Johnson
Starring Ric Law and Pippa Winslow
Short Film Review by James Burgess
There are lots of films which delve into the domestic fragility of crumbling relationships: Sam Mendes’s award-winning 2008 version of Richard Yates’s novel Revolutionary Road, chronicled the devastating denouement of disillusionment turned sour, ending in tragedy for the central couple. Here, up-and-coming British filmmaker Joseph Johnson, evokes a similar sense of unfulfilled, trapped tension with Something Blue, his contemporary debut short film, which won much critical acclaim throughout the 2016 shorts film festivals circuit, collecting several awards.
It has a deceptively simple premise, where a husband and wife sit down at the table over breakfast. Although proceedings may look mundane, even convivial on the surface - resentments, regrets and seemingly uncomfortable subjects are raised, during the course of an increasingly strained conversation.
What’s most clever, is the subtlety of the writing, especially in relation to the dialogue; it quickly becomes evident that it’s what is not said, that’s just as vital, if not more so - as what is. So, an objective portrayal of a marriage is played out - not through the scenery-chewing, overtly confrontational methods, which may once have been favoured - but instead in a far more nuanced, layered, meditative way - where two people are so desperate, but equally unable, to talk to each other, due to a lack of communication that’s presumably endured years of erosion.
The key lies in all the half-formed statements of justification, or questions which tale-off: ‘I’m trying’ and ‘Where are you going?’ or ‘Was it okay?’.
This structural choice of foregrounding the subtext, is what lends the film its uneasy air of bubbling profundity, and also allows the root of the protagonist’s issues to be left open to interpretation. It’s never made explicitly clear what their fundamental problem is, but this means that the ambiguity can also be reflected in the film’s cinematographic style. An initially innocuous close-up on a personalised glass of water, suddenly holds great significance.
The performances too, are both extremely effective at alluding to this sense of interior ellipsis, always an inch away from breaking through their façade. Ric Law’s husband, even occasionally stares blankly into the camera, as if this is his only means of escape. Pippa Winslow in particular, brings a pained, disparaging quality to a wife who’s dealing with an unspoken trauma. Winslow is excellent at conveying the most complex of emotions, just through a shift of the eyes, or sombre look into the middle distance. This is a well-observed, affectingly performed drama, which acts as a prescient social comment.