Written and Directed by Shireen Vasseghi Starring Oliver Hall, Sophie Renée, Naho Short Film Review by Chris Olson
Short sci-fi Velvet Hour has a textured appeal to its experimental approach which keeps a story that could very easily have fallen into the clinical claptrap genre within the confines of a more compelling character drama narrative. The overall movie is moving, tender and expertly handled. Ben (Oliver Hall) opens Velvet Hour by experiencing one hell of a bad night's sleep. Tossing and turning, the man is haunted by disturbing scenes which we later find out to be a horrific memory involving his partner Risa (Naho). Scratching days off a calendar, Ben moves towards an entry marked "France" which the audience discovers to be the location of a particular therapy which may hold the key to Ben's emotional relief. There exists a distinct choice to highlight the beautiful alongside the harrowing in writer and director Shireen Vasseghi's short that should be applauded. The use of brutal visuals and dark lighting is somehow complemented by the use of soft acoustic music and human performances. Watching the blossoming romance between Ben and Risa is in total contrast to the nightmarish opening of the film, and yet it does not jolt the viewer. Instead, there is a more complex relationship being identified and explored during Velvet Hour, something which makes the overall achievement of the piece even more impressive, which is our relationship with memory, and the delicate balance between tragedy and happiness. This gets physically represented when we see Ben being wrapped in cling film by the clinic's leader (Sophie Renée) as a montage of good and bad memories gets blurred together, accompanied by the aforementioned music, in a rebirth sequence that is sublime to watch. Another excellent scene involves Ben in the bath with Risa, which held huge emotional impact. This was also a lovely moment to cement the audience's connection with the lead character, which paid dividends by the culmination of the story. As with many science fiction premises there is a lot in Velvet Hour that could be explored further and the delivery of the narrative touch points could be a sticking point for some audiences, who may feel rushed to build strong enough ties to all the players. However, as a piece of short filmmaking, I found this to be incredibly powerful and cinematic throughout, with great performances and a brilliantly curated atmosphere that did justice to the stirring themes of memory, heartache and hope.