Behind Closed Doors
20 May 2022
Kaitlyn Lorraine Boxall
Kaitlyn Lorraine Boxall
Holly Prentice, Vasile Marin, Ryan Graham
A short film by Kaitlyn Lorraine Boxall, it is inspired by true experiences of domestic abuse victims. It has precautionary warnings from the beginning that there is strong language and some distressing scenes, which sets the tone for the film. Whilst it’s a fictional story based on extensive research, it’s made in collaboration with Women’s Aid and has an infomercial like message that aims to be supportive of anyone going through a similar situation.
At just over the 30 minutes mark this short film manages to capture the anxiety and fear of a woman, Lisa (Holly Prentice), trapped in an abusive relationship. It begins with her looking sad as she remembers happy memories with her partner, looking like a typical happy couple together: smiling, taking selfies and getting engaged, but the memories are soon replaced by the couple arguing and fighting. Her voiceover gives us the foreboding message that this can happen to anyone and that, “no matter what, at least once in your life, someone will hurt you,” but whilst bad things happen in life, it doesn’t have to be the end of the story - which is the positive and empowering message of the film.
The script picks out some of the likely scenarios of an abusive relationship, especially the kind of behaviour of an abusive partner. It might seem obvious to leave someone like this, but obviously isn't be as simple as that when there is a marriage and children involved.
Lisa has been recommended to a counsellor by her friend whose attempt to help her is now seen as interfering, basically because she is frightened and confused to know what the best thing to do is, afraid of her husband and not wanting to be disloyal to him. Her meetings with the counsellor become a focal point for her talking about her relationship that leads to an unexpected twist that is almost as alarming as the husband’s behaviour. The surly husband Mick (Ryan Graham) has an intimidating physique as the vicious bully whose gruff manner seems an unlikely match with his timorous wife, and the counsellor Aaron (Vasile Marin) is an empathetic voice by comparison to begin with, but ends up causing more problems than solutions.
The scenes are simply put together by DOP Luke Anthony Halstead, based around some good establishing shots in the home, the counsellor’s office and the park, which make good locations to develop the story from. The counsellor interviews are initiated with some over the shoulder POV shots that provide a dynamic interaction and these later switch to square on headshots, which give a more clinical look as the exchanges become more intense. Any uncomfortable intensity is heightened between the characters by invading their personal space and is further intensified when the camera punches in up close. The long corridor shots in the home meanwhile give a sense of the voyeur looking in from a distance, observing the differential treatment “behind closed doors”; and the announcement of the pandemic on the news and the beginning of a nationwide lockdown brings further to attention the potential for abuse in the home.
At times it feels like a compilation of the worst things that can happen in a relationship, but it holds together as an entertaining short tackling a sensitive subject. There’s little sugar coating in getting its message across without totally scaring the pants off you and the closing credit song cover of Coldplay’s “Fix You”, finishes on a gratefully uplifting note.