Unmasked short film review

★★★★

Directed by: #SteveReeves

Written by: #SteveReeves

Starring: #LainyBoyle, #NigelBoyle

Film Review by: Darren Tilby



Like everyone else at the moment, Fiona and Martin are two people stuck in an endless cycle of good days and bad days; days of being productive and days spent binge-watching TV; days you feel like the world is your oyster and days you can hardly bring yourself to get out of bed.


On one of those better days, Fiona (Lainy Boyle) has dragged herself out of bed, pulled on her sportswear and braved the horrors of the virus-ridden city streets for her daily exercise. Unfortunately, so has Martin (Nigel Boyle) and within seconds of leaving her apartment, Fiona accidentally runs out in front of him. The two collide, and Martin sprains his ankle. Fiona, feeling guilty about causing the accident, invites Martin into her apartment to rest his leg. Suddenly, in what should have been 10-minutes of small talk, we see the pair opening up to one another as they contemplate the current situation.


There’s very little in the way of characterisation done in the first half of the film - we don’t even get to see their faces. Who are they? What do they do? Who do they know? But none of it matters. The viewer feels almost instantly connected to both Fiona and Martin, regardless. Why? Well, it comes down to empathy. Take a look at Christopher Nolan’s war-epic, Dunkirk. A film with hardly any dialogue and almost zero character development. Yet it doesn’t matter, because we connect with its characters on a basic human level. These are people, like you and me, going through something awful; something real. And it’s precisely the same thing in Unmasked.


My main issue with Unmasked is that, tonally, it’s a little all over the place. We constantly flutter between this sort of quiet, understated humour and moments of deep and emotional introspection. And, in all fairness, it does both of these things rather well. It’s just that switching between the two states as often as we do, can leave the film seeming somewhat confused with how it wants to present itself - particularly in a movie which runs at only around 12-minutes in length, anyway.


What never gets muddied, however, is the film’s aim; its intent. Unmasked serves as an examination of loss, wrapped up in a Covid-19 lockdown skin—and it’s a damn fine one to boot. Whether it’s the loss of something significant like a marriage or merely missing the ability to hug another person, Ian Anderson brilliantly accentuates the atmosphere with his superbly framed and intimately designed cinematography, bathed in a beautiful muted blue hue.


Unmasked – the “shot at a safe distance” short film – is solid, if slightly messy, filmmaking. But while it’s a little erratic, it’s also a well-written and poignant piece on an important – sadly ongoing – topic, that’s mostly held together by our connection to its characters.