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Radio Moon [Pierre Gaffié, France, 2018] /// The Hangman [Margaret McGoldrick, UK, 2018]

February 16, 2019

Radio Moon is an engaging analysis of guilt and the pressures of uncertainty. Directed by Pierre Gaffié, the film explores the difficulties of making decisions when the outcomes are not entirely clear. The film follows Sybil, a late-night radio host who offers guidance and advice for her listeners. Sybil however, wants to split up with her boyfriend Luke but is struggling with the decision. It's not until she gets her next call from Michel that she begins to take action. Michel is a guilt-stricken package holiday salesman who feels responsible for the death of a woman who died on a holiday he recommended.

The story moves Sybil profoundly. As the story progresses, both Sybil and her staff cannot help but give their full attention. Sybil identifies and empathises with Michel but, despite her reassurance that it wasn't his fault, Michel still feels responsible. The performances from the two characters in this sequence are the highlight of the film. Michel, entirely off-screen during the scene, is a very engaging character. It feels as if he's confessing his problems to a modern-day priest to get his problems off his chest. He feels guilty and wants help and Sybil does her best by telling him to confront his problems and that he's being too hard on himself. The call concludes and Sybil has to make her decision as she now has a new sense of optimism.

 

The fundamental problem with the film is that it's not clearly established why Sybil is unhappy in her relationship. She attempts to send Luke a message, stating that it's because they're incompatible but the film fails to show why. The call from Michel feels like a warning as if making a decision and going into the unknown is the worst thing that can happen. Their problems, however, are not comparable. Michel feels as if he caused a woman’s death and wants to find a way to relieve himself of the guilt, whereas Sybil wants to end something she knows is wrong.

The lightning and cinematography are excellent and many of the opening shots were genuinely beautiful. The sound and set design is also worthy of compliment, creating an authentic feeling and atmosphere. Michel’s phone call is made to sound like he’s calling from a car and this effect works very well.

 

Radio Moon is a well-crafted short film that explores the reasons why a person may not want to end a relationship, whilst simultaneously examining how guilt can affect us all.

Northern Irish writer and director Margaret McGoldrick creates a bleak, character-driven noir where two men – a murderer and executioner – discuss their worlds over a cigarette. The film explores the themes of death and execution as well as showing how it affects the perpetrators.

 

Set in 1958 Belfast, James is waiting to be executed for the murder of his wife and is visited by his would-be executioner, Alfred. Alfred isn’t there to socialise with the condemned James. He wants to understand the extent of the crimes committed, despite James’s constant protests of innocence stating, "It's not murder if you get somebody else to do it".  The Hangman looks at two characters whose lives revolve around murder, and explores the mindset that goes with the territory.

The film is beautifully shot, the cinematography and lighting perfectly capturing the misery of the situation. This is done by surrounding the characters in dull hues, enveloping them in a world of darkness. The room grows darker and darker as the story progresses, signifying the amount of time that has elapsed there and equally how dark their conversation has become. The subtle piano chimes mixed with rain creates a haunting atmosphere. The mood of the short film is quiet, with character dialogue being central to the film’s ideas.

 

A film that relies on dialogue needs characters that work off of each other and James (Andrew Stanford) and Alfred (Frank Cannon) do that brilliantly. James understands his time has come and his true colours begin to show as a result. He is cocky and childish, constantly attempting to make witty remarks and interrupting. Alfred, hardened by his occupation, is much more reserved. In contrast to James, his motivations are mercenary and not driven by emotion.

 

As entertaining as it is to watch James mock Alfred, he starts to become almost comical especially when Alfred tells the story of another man he previously executed. James, in a childlike manner, enjoys hearing the story of how one man was driven to the point of murder and it is evident that Alfred does not enjoy telling it. James, at this point, is played like a comic book villain and feels something of a misstep.

 

Margaret McGoldrick writes and directs an interesting analysis of a prisoner waiting to be executed and being granted the privilege of meeting his executioner. The short film might not have been so enjoyable without the chemistry between Stanford and Cannon, which is complimented by the bleak atmosphere that McGoldrick provides.
 

'Radio Moon' and 'The Hangman' were film submissions in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2018.

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