Directed by Ben Mallaby
Starring Richard Herring and Rachel Stubbings
Short film review by Alfie Shaw
While You Were Away is an amazing, bleak comedy. Building quickly to the central premise and gag, the film then expertly mines it till it’s conclusion. The story of While You Were Away is that of a simple argument between a married couple. To say what the argument is about would be to spoil a fantastic punchline, but where it leads touches lightly on many themes, from the nature of masculinity, to how we justify decisions to ourselves and others. As it builds, the justifications given by both characters get more and more absurd and the jokes start coming thick and fast. However silly the lines get, the whole piece is grounded by superb performances by Richard Herring and Rachel Stubbings.
Visually, the film is stunning. The lighting in particular is used to great effect. Herring’s Mark sits mainly in the dark, reinforcing the dark nature of his dialogue. Stubbings’ Susan is conversely in the light, making her visually enlighten which ironically juxtaposes her role in proceedings. All of the lighting is done via the lamps in shot, grounding the film firmly in reality. This doesn’t feel like it’s happening in a sanitised film home, this feels like it could really be happening next door. It also makes great use of close ups, placing the viewer in the position of almost active participant in the argument as though to examine each and every word the characters say. The frequency of close ups greatly increases as the couple become closer through the argument. The film benefits from brilliant direction (Ben Mallaby) building on a hilarious script. You can’t help but feel attached to the couple very quickly which really pays off when the jokes become more and more frequent. By investing in the mundane, it heightens the humour of the comedy.
The film suffers from some minor audio issues. Some of the dialogue clips and this really breaks your immersion in the short film. It’s by no means a deal breaker, the performances quickly re-invest you in the narrative, but sits at odds with the rest of the film which is produced to such a high standard.
If you are fan of comedy, especially black comedy, you have to watch While You Were Away. It manages to be much funnier than most Hollywood comedies of the past few years in a fraction of the run time. Beautifully shot, constructed and acted, it’s easy to see why it’s already claimed a few awards. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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