True Colours (2022)
Aug 28, 2022
Matthew Sharpe, Megan McArthur
I feel we can thank Donald Trump for the popularisation of the term ‘gaslighting’ – seeing as how he’s been managing to do it to an entire country for the past 6 years. The term has gained traction as a descriptor of attempts by an individual to manipulate someone else into questioning their own perceptions – usually in efforts to deny their own abusive practices. True Colours is a short film that features a harrowing example of this behaviour in action.
Upon discovery of his partner Katy’s (Megan McArthur) infidelity, Joel (Matthew Sharpe) is left devastated. As she returns home that night to discover that Joel has sniffed out her secret, she turns his fury back towards him, accusing him of paranoia and castigating him for invading her privacy. As she tries to manipulate him into questioning the incriminating evidence he has uncovered, Joel is left torn between standing up against the abuse, or allowing his insecurities to be exploited once again.
True Colours is not an easy watch. Its portrayal of an abusive and unfaithful relationship may be difficult for some viewers to witness. But director Aron Holden is unflinching in laying bear the extent that troubling behaviour can reach – and in Katy and Joel’s case it is undeniable that a dangerous and toxic dynamic has developed. The slow but sinister manner in which Katy transitions the Joel’s anger back towards him, to paint herself as the victim and him as the abuser is impressively authentic. And the revelation that her cruelty is not a one-off is also handled in a way that feels natural and deserving of inclusion. The film’s opening carefully demonstrates that despite their problems, Joel retains strong feelings for his partner – setting up his primary dilemma well.
Matthew Sharpe and Megan McArthur both excel as the doomed couple. Sharpe brings a sensitivity to Joel that contrasts with a masculine demeanour – an effective way of showing that anyone can be the victim of an abusive relationship that is not obnoxiously signposted. McArthur’s Katy is a tyrannical and unrepentant abuser, whose cruelty towards her partner skirts close to the line of unbelievable without ever fully crossing. The character is left a little one dimensional due to the film’s short runtime, but McArthur does a fine job of colouring her role within this.
Aron Holden’s direction helps to bring the film beyond the closed in boundaries of its bedroom setting. The initial overview of scattered photos and text messages is an intriguing way of demonstrating Joel’s complex and contradictory feelings towards Katy. As the pair begin to argue, the camera closes in to the pair as tensions build and a feeling of unpredictable danger arises. The decision to contrast the lighting from the dark and opaque bedroom at the film’s conclusion can be interpreted in a number of ways – matching the film’s uncertain ending.
True Colours is a worthy if sometimes uncomfortable watch – that showcases the difficult and hidden ways abusive behaviour can emerge. It’s a difficult topic to handle appropriately – but director Aron Holden rises to the challenge.