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The Prayer short film review

Updated: Mar 12, 2021

★★★

Directed by: #BernardKordieh

Written by: #JessieGraceMellor

 
The poster for 'The Prayer' showing a close up of Leon Herbert's character of Jacob, his head titled so the brim of his hat covers his eyes. the tagline reads "Forgive those who trespass"

Let’s start this review off with my favourite thing about the film because it expertly guides The Prayer out a trap so many short films can fall into, thus immediately vanishing into obscurity. The cinematography, while Bernard Kordieh’s direction of performance and tension is terrific in its own merit, it is the atmosphere created by Matt Perden and Tom Walder that make this film stand out. The fantastic use of colour and focus makes the forest setting almost ethereal, which lets Kordieh make the dilemma of the main character Grace all the more palpable. Many short filmmakers of low budgets (myself included) are guilty of having actors walk in the woods in place of unique imagery, it is convenient and free but never makes for anything memorable. The Prayer is a wonderful exception as Perden and Walden really do fantastic work in making something out of nothing.


You are gripped into this world with its faded yellow colour grade and soft depth of field, allowing the actors to stand out within the frame. Jessie Grace Mellor’s script builds a mystery out of its few elements mainly the relationship between Adwoa Akoto’s Grace, Leon Herbert’s Jacob and the large bag being carried through the forest by them which suspiciously moves every once in a while, as if someone was inside. Morally dubious actions within the woods immediately create subconscious Miller’s Crossing comparisons but Kordieh’s direction doesn’t invite imitation. While the resolution to the film’s narrative is slightly underwhelming, with a lack of clear answers, the performances make it riveting regardless. With Akoto’s empathetic morality clashing against Herbert’s calculating authority, you can definitely get a sense of the larger history between these characters.


They do not appear to be credited in the film’s titles but whoever was responsible for costume design on The Prayer did fantastic work. Beautifully complemented against the cinematography, Grace’s metropolitan fur hat and coat pairs against Jacob’s outfit resembling a modern preacher from a western. They both look fantastic and Teryne Philips make up work just adds another layer to the film’s visuals. Adwoa Akoto is glowing in her scenes, capturing this fragile innocence in her desperation against Jacob’s commands. Herbert’s gravelly voice when he calmly speaks makes Jacob a great antagonist, despite the tension in their character’s mission, there is no doubt in his control and faith that what he needs to be done will be accomplished.


Kordieh and Mellor give The Prayer lots of little details in its dialogue and direction, it is a simple story and mystery but feels too vague to be resolved satisfactorily. It’s still stunning with its visuals and performances but its a film that definitely leaves you wanting more.

 

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