Directed by #PhilipBrocklehurst
Film review by Nathanial Eker
Sometimes simplicity is key, particularly in the short film category. A grand three act structure riddled with clever plant and pay offs, plot twists, and an ensemble cast is often less passionate and effective than the gorgeous clarity of five minutes of pure vision. Such is the case with The Loner, a lovely short that captures a slice of everyday life, exemplifying the dangers of loneliness without uttering a single word.
A lone man (Jonathan Skye-O’Brien) watches the world go by at the same spot every day, eating his same sandwich while peacefully observing the lives of each passer-by. His life is forever changed when a girl (Holly Williams) notices and joins him.
It’d be a surprise if Director Philip Brocklehurst had never seen Paris J’Taime, a glorious collection of short films that focus on similar ‘slice of life’ based narratives. While The Loner’s storytelling is beautifully understated, its conclusion is confusingly jarring. The passionate kiss taken straight from a golden age Hollywood dénouement feels misplaced. The simple act of two companions walking off together could’ve hinted that life was heading in a more positive direction.
Equally, the chemistry of the players, while undeniably visible, favours the sweet over the compelling. The subtleties of accurately portraying love at first sight is a hard thing to accomplish, and though Skye-O’Brien and Williams convey a warmth, their awkward encounter only makes that huge snog all the more head scratching.
However, the good intentions of The Loner can’t be overstated. Though the performance of Skye-O’Brien doesn’t quite effectively hint at enough sorrow, we do get a sense of this man’s loneliness. The minimalistic nature of his encounter with the girl suggests that there is indeed companionship out there for everybody; an admirable sentiment. Had this moment been left in a state of ‘what if’, leaving the budding relationship more ambiguously, the film could’ve ended on a more successful note.
Brocklehurst for the most part allows his sequence to play out with an organic soundscape; a wise move. Regrettably then, the non-diegetic music that seeps in as the two start to hit it off somewhat devolves the realist aesthetic into stereotypical rom-com territory. It doesn’t help that the inorganic instruments used sound more at place in an aquarium than as a soundtrack to the genesis of love at first sight.
Even more shaky than the believability of the relationship is The Loner’s cinematography, which seems to have encountered problems, either on set or during the edit. A bizarre warping effect occurs in certain shots, which only further detracts from the realism of the piece, reminding us that we’re indeed watching a film, not a slice of real life. It’s a shame; had this error been ironed out, the film’s impressive verisimilitude would’ve been one of its strongest elements.
The Loner remains a beautifully simple tale. One that we’ve undoubtedly seen before, yes, but a hopeful analysis of human nature regardless. Its comment on the damaging effect of isolation is effective, though it flies off the rails towards the end with an unnecessarily bombastic conclusion. A few tech mistakes and a pretty dreadful soundscape aside, The Loner has a clear authorial vision that makes the film enjoyable, in spite of its faults. Loneliness is a damaging, heart-breaking aspect of our society and this film knows it.
Brocklehurst ultimately delivers an admirable message that’s worth remembering; look out for those most secluded.