Directed by: #ChrisHarrison
The Things We Leave Behind presents a poignant examination of personal, intimate grief through the eyes of a widowed husband, a motherless daughter, and a child missing her nan.
Mourning is a topic that can easily be played the wrong way, but fortunately, a strong cast, no doubt coupled with strong direction and a commendable attention to detail makes this short a mostly successful, genuine journey to acceptance.
The writing by Director Chris Harrison is largely impressive. While the occasional line is slightly on the nose, the dialogue is mostly realistic, particularly those delivered by old Charlie. The shell shock of losing his wife, his whole world, is exemplified through his repetition that he ‘doesn’t know what he’s doing.’ Less is often more when writing dialogue and this scene exemplifies why; the script trusts the actor to do the work with very few words, creating a subtle scene that is suitably heart-breaking. Exposition can equally often be the death of familial drama, but Harrison mostly delivers it through implication rather than outright statements, which is welcome. One slight gripe is that the confrontation never quite escalates beyond minor turbulence between the characters, leading to a fairly low stakes affair.
In such a human drama, if the actors are unable to sell the realism of their parts, particularly young Mia, the film would fall on its face. Fortunately for The Things We Leave Behind, the three lead actors all deliver superbly subtle performances. Praise must go to young Isla Campbell Gorrie who sells the torment of a silent repression, but brings bursts of raw emotion where needed. Equally impressive are co-stars McWilliam and Macallister, who both tap into the painful grieving process for two genuine portrayals. The latter shows the desolation of losing your other half, while the former tries desperately to support the weight of her family’s happiness upon her shoulders. Slightly less impressive are some of the supporting cast, such as a teacher who may as well be in a pantomime and an off-screen waitress who delivers lines as if they fall straight from her mouth.
Editing and cinematography wise, the film doesn’t experiment with anything crazy, because it doesn’t need to. The basic style of #filmmaking reflects the everyday setting and shows the everyman nature of such a tragedy. That said, the saturated colour palette works to show the infectious depression, torturing the family. Otherwise, the camera work is by the numbers, but impressively so. Certain shots focus on the foreground, putting the audience at a distance from the action, again emphasising the isolation felt by Mia and her small, breaking family.
Finally, the score, when good, is excellent. Yet, there are moments, such as a confrontation on the beach, where the music doesn’t quite fit the mood of the scene. When it does, however, subdued and subtle piano focused score amplifies the emotions on screen tenfold. In particular, towards the hopeful ending as the soundtrack shifts into warmer tones and major chords, it supports the emerging smiles on screen beautifully.
In review, The Things We Leave Behind is a well-made, if safe, short. The actor’s performances are a clear highlight, but the strong script is no slouch either. The exploration of perhaps the barest of human emotions through the eyes of both an old man and a child is a touching and clever concept, and the execution works.
Despite a few dodgy supporting actors and a score that doesn’t always hit the mark, this is a wonderfully made short that deserves to be seen.