A Tortured Soul
Feb 11, 2023
Jake Blight, Charlotte Blight
Even without saying ‘Cornish Short Film’ in its description, you can tell ‘A Tortured Soul is Cornish. It has that distinctive air of Cornwall, the spirit of the sea which can be found nowhere else but the westernmost corner of England. While it’s immediately evident where it’s located, it is less clear what value there is in any of what ‘A Tortured Soul’ is trying to say, or even whether it’s trying to say anything at all.
Written and directed by Jacob Bennett, though the direction is competent, he is let down by his writing, which leaves a lot to be desired. The script is assumptive, it presumes that we already have a base understanding of certain events that have transpired before the film, and we are left with tidbits of information of little value as a result. We’re never given an opportunity to understand more of what has come before, perhaps due to its slight three minute runtime, and as a result there’s a layer of ambiguity where there should be clarity. At one point a character says ‘you know where’ to another, and that’s all well and good, but we, the viewer, have no idea where you’re talking about, and we don’t even get to know. That is poor writing.
Unfortunately this doesn’t translate to the dialogue, in which too much is said aloud. It sounds awkward and fragmented, and doesn’t bother to create any subtext. This may have been overcome if not for underwhelming performances from both Jake Blight and Charlotte Blight as the Man and Lady at the forefront of the film, with both lacking spatial awareness in their movement and mannerisms. Furthermore, they simply lack chemistry, with conversation between the pair appearing stilted and forced.
This is a major problem given that the film focuses on the dialogue between the two. Jake Blight plays a widowed man who has turned to drink and wandering the Cornish cliffs in order to find peace and seclusion after the death of his wife, for which he feels guilty. He is disturbed by his wife’s (Charlotte Blight) presence on the cliffs, lamenting his drinking habits and instructing him to take himself to another cliff. These appearances appear to be the mental disturbances of a sad drunk, and the wife’s appearance, dressed in all white lends itself to that interpretation.
If the man, therefore, is the tortured soul whom the film refers to, then he appears to show very little remorse. Other than his drunkenness there’s no real sense of regret or torture for his wife’s death, indeed had the title not said otherwise, it would be reasonable to assume that he didn’t remotely care about his wife’s death.
Bennett’s direction is more competent than his screenplay, he certainly creates a Cornish atmosphere, and captures the vastness of the environment without ever resorting to wide, establishing landscape shots. Similarly, the opening score is adept at instilling a distinctly Cornish feel, and is a highlight of an otherwise underwhelming film.
Yet these bright sparks are ultimately only sparks, and the turgid screenplay of ensures that the film never really goes beyond its distinctly Cornish feel. The drunk man may be tortured, but at least he doesn’t need to watch ‘A Tortured Soul’ for that would surely only make matters worse.