Workshop short film review

★★★★

Directed by #JosephArcher

Written by #SamToller

Starring #Ryaan Ali, Kainan Tenkorang, Dean Smith, Ben Jones, Sam Toller

Short Film Review by Jack Bottomley




It can be hard to review ruminatory work, as these stories often leave you to piece together the plot (if there even is a firmly established one) and some characters can be an absolute enigma. Contrary to that, they can be about a core subject but leave you to think on that subject with an interesting, often artistic, story or the way it’s filmed. Workshop, backed by London-based mental health movement Thrive LDN and National Youth Theatre, is a piece of filmmaking like the latter. And it is one about a very important matter, especially in these worrisome and isolated times.


The film, shot in black and white, with impressively restrained but still revealing and thoughtful cinematography by #NathanFord, focuses on a workshop with four young men. As these guys partake in the group activities under the aid of their workshop leader, they come to reveal some of their own fears in their fight with mental health.


Workshop is very much like a charity advert and I mean that with the greatest respect. It is shot as though it were a stage play, with its single location and characters whom are not really expanded beyond the activities they partake in and the resulting group dynamic and personalities we see develop during these. Making a point about how grey this world can seem, the film’s closing statement leaves you thinking and makes a strong point regarding how we can all see things differently, especially when struggling with mental health. Like some of the animal aid or child abuse charity advertisements or short films, this is a well filmed and conceived idea and makes a strong statement, while also harnessing a hopeful edge.


The young men in the film, #RyaanAli, #KainanTenkorang, #DeanSmith, #BenJones, #SamToller, are great and highlight the film’s humanity, as it shows a diverse small group of young men, all in an equal light. This issue knows no boundaries, and this film commendably shows how we are all living in a grey world, one all of us experience differently but through connection, that world can start becoming more colourful. This is suggested by select use of colour in the film, which (as everything from Schindler’s List to Sin City has shown us) is a striking narrative and thematic tool. As is the closing atmosphere summoned by the gentle music by #JodieGrayer and #DeanBonning.


The film does address mental health as a whole, as evident by its closing sentiment, but is centred in this instance on men’s mental health, which is an especially problematic and important area. In my experience, mental health is hell for anyone but with many men, they are further unhelpfully encouraged or ordered to “shake it off” or “get over it” and a film like this is a welcome project.

Workshop is a film more, like therapy itself, concerned with revelations through being yourself and is a reflective take on an important and dangerous subject, one affecting more and more people and aggravated by various situations, especially ones like the one we are all experiencing at the moment. As director #JosephArcher’s film plays out, you are thinking about such things and while #SamToller’s script does take time to have a laugh, Workshop is an aesthetically powerful statement on mental health and how it changes people’s observation and experience of the world around them on many levels, even a visual one.

#JackBottomley