Directed by: #MohamondShoolizadeh
There is an applaudable amount of effort that goes into creating any independent feature length film on a low budget, especially when the man directing has to additionally manage the roles of screenplay writer, producer, colourist, set production and costume designer, sound designer, and editor. However, the serious topics this film deals with could have been better handled with a larger productions team and bigger budget.
Indie film Susan attempts to explore the life of a grieving woman as she loses both her husband and her daughter, the only family members she had. The use of a handheld camera and long close up shots of Susan’s face as she experiences overwhelming emotion do allow the audience to experience the unease and discomfort that comes with watching someone suffer first-hand. It feels very personal: we intrude on Susan’s most intimate moments, staring lifelessly out the window or weeping alone in a hollow cathedral. However, the film does not create the right atmosphere for the audience to engage with the dramatic displays of emotion.
Frank Capra, the American-Italian director, was known to have said: “I made mistakes in drama. I thought drama was when actors cried. But drama is when the audience cries.” In this film it could be difficult for the audience to be able to feel very connected to the emotions of the main character when viewing such an overwhelmingly intense performance of her grief. This is also undercut by flashback sequences which come across as contrived. The dialogue in them is repetitive, and the acting is exaggerated until moments that are meant to be tender instead feel slightly comedic. The extravagant opera style music in the background only adds to the sense of insincerity.
The mise-en-scène in the house is carefully constructed and has an clean layout, and some of the shots of Susan silhouetted against the magenta night sky and sparkling London are breathtaking. Trees are used as frequent recurring imagery, possibly to symbolise emotional or spiritual growth, and add a nice touch to the film. However, both the genre and the pacing of this film make it difficult to immerse yourself in it.
It is unclear what issue the director is trying to tackle: is it a mental health film about the way soldiers experience #PTSD, a tragedy about loss, meant to raise awareness about how homeless people end up in their situation, or a religious psychodrama? The film’s plot twists verge on unbelievable and there are too many cycles of climax and resolution. It feels like it could have easily ended in four different places, but it carries on, not always for the better. Attempting to deal with so many serious topics means the film is unable to do any of them justice, and perhaps it would have been a better debut if the director had worked within his means and stuck to one central theme.