24 Feb 2022
Tofi Sodobu, Olumide Sodobu, Suzi Ewing
Gabriella Agbenosi, Temi Omowaye
It’s no secret that acid attacks are a huge problem in London. In 2017 alone there were 472 and in 2019 London was described as the ‘acid attack hotspot of the western world’. It’s become as frequent a crime as burglaries or stabbings, leaving victims scarred for the rest of their lives. Whilst ‘Fading’ recognises this issue and makes a valiant attempt to address it - it never quite goes beyond the quality of a video you’d get shown in high school.
‘Fading’ tells the story of an acid attack, and the effects that it has on the victim, the perpetrator and those around them. The largest issue is that we’re supposed to see the attack and the problems it creates for Steph (Gabriella Agbenosi) as though we should care for her. We’re supposed to empathise with her plight as she is effectively disowned by her mother and left isolated and broken. However, we’re given no reason to feel any emotion for her - as far as we can tell she’s just decided to throw acid at her best friend Cynthia (Temi Omowaye) for no apparent reason. That’s no way to bring the audience on side with your character.
Cynthia’s story of recovery is far more engaging and rather inspirational because we have a reason to feel for her. As she struggles to comprehend that her best friend could do such a thing, then goes through the trauma of having to return to normal life again, we’re given reason to hope and to sympathise with her.
Unfortunately, the section that focuses on Cynthia, and the rest of the short, is held back by some sub-par acting. Neither of the two leads are believable - though they may have been held back by a similarly torrid script - and both of their deliveries are off. Their performances are still the two best in the short, however, as much of the supporting cast appear to have read their lines straight from a cue card. It’s often stilted and lacks flow, with unnatural pauses in lines and two-second breaks as they wait to respond to the other actor.
This problem is only amplified by the script, which is unnatural and the dialogue feels extremely unrealistic. When there are three writers on a short film the phrase ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ comes to mind, and that is certainly the case here, where instead of refining it, the script has become too bloated with everyone’s ideas. Another issue came in the form of sound mixing an audio inconsistency, with conversations switching from extremely loud to a whisper regularly.
However, it must be said that the direction from Anthony Vadnder is solid, if unremarkable, and depicts London as the gloomy, urban jungle that it is. There’s some pretty nifty camerawork as it circles around Steph for a prolonged period, emphasising her loneliness and regret. Also, the soundtrack was atmospheric and sustained interest in the moments when the story reaches a lull.
It’s a good thing that the soundtrack is so atmospheric as there are plenty of lulls along the way - not helped by the acting or script. At the end of the day, ‘Fading’ may be no better than a video from high school, but its heart is in the right place and it tells an important story, whilst also giving some important advice before the credits.