Directed by: Darren King Starring: Sammy Johnston, Darren King (Nathan), Dan Hugo, Chloe O’Dwyer, Jonathan Jules, Abbie Samuel Short Film Review by: Jack Bottomley
Mental health, to this day, remains an uncomfortable topic for many. As the world moves on, it is baffling, upsetting and downright ridiculous that mental health – an issue that affects and kills so many people – is still stigmatised, downplayed and/or ignored by a lot of people. This being said, progress is undoubtedly being made as mental health issues are being raised on advertisements for big brands and a lot of figures are now openly discussing their own experiences in the hopes of helping other people. Mental health awareness is so important and for those of you whom have ever had battles of your own, you will know that the battle within is one of the hardest you can fight.
So, it is rather special to see any film addressing this subject and Director/Writer/Editor/Producer/Co-Star Darren King’s film The Battle Within, boasts a strong message. Centred on Kate (Sammy Johnston), whose relationship recently broke down violently, and the lonely Nathan (King), The Battle Within shows how mental health affects people differently, as Kate feels increasingly overpowered by her feelings and certain that she will ever feel happy again, and Nathan seeks a way forward after a dark event in his past.
From the start, this film is one that takes a largely visual approach to an emotional and distressing story of how the mind and the bleakest of feelings can make us feel so powerless. Director of Photography Dan Hugo’s (who also has a small part as Kate’s former boyfriend) images are put to great use by King, as this short relies on some excellent black and white or stripped of colour imagery to denote the greyness that is building within our leads – Kate especially. Jason Chatwin’s music also effectively expresses this point.
Kate’s battle is powerful and King is not shy of showing the horror that comes with suffering from these dreadful feelings. Namely how it can leave you more susceptible to the vices of alcohol and the damaging act of self-harming. This screenplay guides you through the downward spiral that is depression and aesthetically captures the essence of what it is to feel deserted and confined by your emotions as you are well and truly at war with your self. In fact, many viewers out there, will have had even more extreme experiences than those presented here.
It makes for hard viewing at points because you know that people live Kate’s story everyday and as this short reaches a point of utter desperation, it is hard to not start thinking about the many lives lost to the darkness. However, it is at this point that The Battle Within breaks its format and the script comes to surface, with a concluding scene between the two leads that is superbly human and really quite moving. So often this topic results in despair but this short chooses an uplifting peak to its narrative. A concluding song-backed closing montage further highlights the film’s ultimate message of how companionship, understanding and honesty can make all the difference and how an awful time passes, so never make an irreversibly bad decision based on the moment.
The Battle Within gives a spotlight to people who feel more alone than ever and with a tremendous lead performance by Sammy Johnston as Kate and a brilliant turn by King, this is a fantastic little story about one of the hardest and most frightening experiences anybody can ever go through in life. Furthermore it is an encouraging film about never letting the darkness beat you.