Something To Do With Purpose
11 Oct 2021
Ellis Evason, Aaron Ward, Tyler Beckles
Family ties and ideology are set on a collision course in Something To Do With Purpose, a short film feature from director James Short with an appropriate title, as it fails to build upon its own themes or tell a clear and coherent story with the intriguing questions it ponders.
Undercover MI5 agent Zayn (Ellis Evason) is tasked with gathering information on a terrorist cell led by his own brother Colin (Aaron Ward). Colin’s paranoia and fanaticism are already causing problems with group members Dan (Tyler Beckles) and Sam (Damon Ravenscraft). But when Zayn’s secret is revealed, it leads to a standoff between the pair over whether loyalties should lie with family, or purpose.
Something To Do With Purpose aspires to be an explorative film weighing personal and familial bonds against ideological callings. But underdeveloped plot and dialogue leave this effort hamstrung. The nature of the terror group is unexplained – beyond vague hints at far-right anarchist beliefs – and this makes Colin’s unwavering devotion to his cause difficult for the audience to understand (even if they were to still find it reprehensible). Meanwhile Zayn’s conflict is similarly difficult to relate to. Beyond being Colin’s brother, we see little to establish their bond as especially tight or close. It is expected that the audience will just assume the choice to turn on family will be a difficult one, based on their status as brothers alone. More characterisation would have been welcome to demonstrate the pair’s relationship.
The film’s script is expository and unnatural, with characters blurting out plot points and background as though ticking off a checklist. Barely any exchanges feel legitimate, and the overall staginess of the film hurts the chemistry between the actors – particularly Evason and Ward whose characters desperately need it. Colin’s outbursts feel especially forced when confronting his own (apparently) lifelong and trusted friends – again resulting from an unprompted and convenient need to move the plot along. When the film delves into more philosophical territory towards the end, it does find some sense of rhythm – and one gets the sense this pivotal conversation between the brothers is the film the director really wanted to make.
Performances of the main cast are lacking and fail to provide much in the way of emotional connection for the audience. It’s hard to pinpoint whether this is the result of the quality of the script or the performers themselves, but beyond basic line delivery, there isn’t much for viewers to relate to. It’s perhaps to be expected for a lower budget film, however for a story that is largely character driven, it is a shame that execution is so poor – especially given that there is clearly appreciation from the director of a need to individualise the cast.
Production is also uninspired, with little in the way of filming techniques or cinematography to help the film stand out or reach a deeper connection to its themes. Beyond a black and white presentation, there is little in the way of risks or innovation with the production, and the camerawork at times feels awkward and insipid. Seemingly unintentional shaky-cam is also notable, and feels more like a shoddy oversight than fly-on-the-wall. Again, some imperfections are to be expected with a lower-budget film, but these issues are more than just kinks to be ironed out.
There isn’t much more to Something To Do With Purpose than an undercooked story and themes which do not receive enough exploration. The film really should have found its own purpose, before embarking on Zayn and Colin’s.