Directed by Simon Van Parijs
Written by Dan McKenna
Produced by: Simon King & Elliott Edwards
Starring Jonathan McGarrity, Brease Woolley, & Jimmy Eggleston
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
Using a plethora of aesthetic devices to capture one man's descent to rock bottom, which ironically culminates in his ascent to the top of a tower block where he plans to throw himself off, filmmaker Simon Van Parijs's short film Where Is Hope tackles heavy issues with impressive technical capability.
Alec (Jonathan McGarrity) is a character crumbling when we first meet him at the beginning of Where Is Hope. After witnessing him react to an emotional voicemail from his soon-to-be ex-wife and following him as he ascends the stairs to a rooftop, the darker tone to Van Parijs story (written for the screen by Dan Mckenna) becomes all too obvious for the audience. However, a surprise awaits Alec on the roof when he literally stumbles upon Hope (Brease Woolley). The two characters engage in a repartee that is heavily morose on his part, and whimsically indifferent on her's.
What starts as an initially promising short film, with some great visual flair and confidence in the earlier scenes inside the tower block, gets let down by fairly clunky dialogue between Alec and Hope. The latter's performance is too reliant on the script, coming across as having no real understanding of the super-philosophical lines she spouts, creating an uncomfortable contrast between her's and McGarrity's - which is actually pretty nuanced. Alec is a more fully-fleshed character, but his journey gets marred by contrivance. In a story almost completely anchored by two characters, direction needed to be a bigger priority than it is. Hope comes across as jarring and irksome, which makes her effect on Alec ultimately unbelievable.
With that said, it is essential that the strengths of Van Parijs's film are now highlighted. Not least the editing from James West which matches the ferocity of Alec's emotions with superb skill, quick cuts maintaining a demanding pace for the audience. Furthermore the cinematography from Milo Cosemans is darkly arresting - especially during that aforementioned stairwell sequence. Sequences atop the tower block are also gripping, with some nice close-up framing of Alec's face giving an uncomfortable intimacy which was compelling. A subtle and tentative sound design accompanied some of the scenes, offering much needed gravitas.
A bold and moving story not quite executed by its central performances, Where Is Hope offers an enjoyable view that sadly never quite ascends past its fundamental limitations, but does give you plenty to enjoy from those off the screen.