Directed and written by James Bowsher
Starring Lizzie Mounter, Tom Bonington
Short Film Review by Rachel Pullen
Phones, they can do anything these days; we can check emails, make videos, take pictures, even do our banking but back in the day we all relied on our trusty flip phones for one thing only, communication.
Pesky perverted or psychopathic callers have been a trope that cinema has used before, with classics such as When a Stranger Calls and Scream, horror loving audiences have come to realise the fear that comes with those midnight calls from withheld numbers. But what if your job was to deal with private calls?
Withheld is the story of Stephanie (Lizzie Mounter), a young woman who makes a bit of extra pocket money by having phone sex, an art that I though no longer existed with the invention of the internet, like paper maps or Blockbuster Video.
Stephanie starts to get harassed by a caller (Tom Bonington) who wants her to play a game with him, he wants his phone sex experience to be 100% genuine and so from her garden orders her to do a series of tasks or he will reveal to her unknowing friends and family what she has been doing to make money.
As was previously mentioned, this is a storyline that audiences will be familiar with, but director and writer James Bowsher captures a new element of fear and discomfort for his viewers but putting the them in the seat of the caller, using shots where we see Stephanie from outside her windows as she tries to please her caller, certainly make for a more personal touch.
The use of close ups on her and his face again give a sense of discomfort as well as a feeling of privacy invasion, we are made to feel as if we are violating the character's personal space, a bold and interesting move from Bowsher that captures the atmosphere of the storyline perfectly.
Withheld is not just a story of harassment, it’s a study of invasion for each of the characters, seeing them both at their most powerful and their most vulnerable, each becoming victims of circumstance and control at the hands of another.
This compelling short is nerve wrecking, terrifying and heroic, and with a strong, believable performance from the leading actor, Lizzie Mounter as well as her co star Tom Bonington, this piece is a must watch for any fans of the horror or thriller genres.