7 Jan 2022
Mark McDermott, Isabelle McDermott, Olivia McDermott
This father and daughter collaboration is by no means a cringy awkward viewing experience as the audience are taken on a journey that oozes of realism but also has a whimsy of fantastical joy to it.
Optics is part of Mark McDermott’s break back into feature-length filmmaking situating Cole, a paranoid father who is beginning to fear the outdoor world, and his two daughters Carly and Chloe who discover that Carly’s camera has come to life. Whilst the plot sounds obscure, the backdrop of a COVID-19 world in the future falling apart, combined with two girls’ intense appetite for adventure, cements this film as a fun watch that contains a heartfelt message at its core.
It states on the McDermott’s website, MIOMotion, that this film is “character driven,” which is an accurate summary. Mark McDermott plays a man in turmoil as he tries to raise his daughters in a seemingly not-too-far in the future world ravaged by the continuing pandemic, and he has real concern for his girls whilst trying to mask his own grief and despair. Character portrayal is excellently done, with McDermott’s exploration of the fatherly psyche intriguing to watch as a society wrought by ‘covid collapse’ is revealed. Showing what could happen to individuals if this global madness continues is not only forward-thinking, but fresh to watch.
These qualities enable Optics to be intense from the offset, which is matched with Isabelle and Olivia McDermott portraying two sisters in isolation. Their equal parts boredom and anxiety allow them to seek adventure through a camera coming alive, allowing the feature to brilliantly encapsulate a UK society – both outside and in the home – during a period of post-lockdown and the potential long-lasting anxieties for young people. The dynamic between the two sisters who annoy each other, but who come together when it matters, feels real and contrasts well with Carly feeling tentative and Chloe craving to go outside. The McDermott sisters are both talented in conveying subtle and powerful emotions that become more heightened during a pandemic.
When the camera is revealed to have a mind of its own, the filming style becomes more thrilling. Jarring shot angles and cleverly worked shots both from and of the camera in question make this film adopt more of a ‘thriller’ stance as the camera forces Carly and Chloe to confront the outside world. With fun side characters, such as ‘Geek boy’ and ‘Doctor Mechanical,’ the film feels less isolated. Ultimately, without giving too much away, the concept of making the camera a living thing is a very unique way of making a feature film and brings every aspect of the story together well.
Although the film has a bit of a slow build, with its pacing slightly off and some scenes too long, the story-line remains engaging throughout. This, with a lack of score is foreboding and creates a powerful isolating atmosphere that is again realistic. What McDermott has achieved with a less than £1k budget and in the space of a few months is outstanding. Here is a fun, yet gritty, film with a loving family at its heart and an offering of hope for a younger generation.
And there is no denying that Cole’s “you can’t scare me I have two daughters” t-shirt is absolutely fantastic.
Mark McDermott is planning to submit Optics into UK and international film festivals. He is also currently writing a new project and it will be exciting to see what is coming up next.