Waves Over Sand [Mark Nugent, UK, 2017] /// Echo [Ron Graves, UK, 2018]
Watching someone lose their memory is one of life’s most difficult and profound experiences, especially when the inflicted begins to forget you, and an even harder challenge to get them to remember you. Writer and director Mark Nugent explores the struggle of reconnecting with loved ones suffering from dementia in Waves Over Sand.
The short film follows Rachel, a talented photographer who has recently broken up with her partner. While waiting for her to collect her belongings, Rachel goes to visit her dementia-stricken father. As she goes to visit him, she encounters her sister, Sarah, who holds a grudge against Rachel for abandoning them at such a crucial time in their lives. Rachel attempts to reconnect with her father and prompt his memory by taking him to a special place.
The writing is the strongpoint of the film, especially when it comes to the protagonist Rachel. The opening scene perfectly establishes how Rachel has hit rock bottom. Rachel is a complicated person, wishing to reconnect with the people around her that she has lost. The film serves as a redemption story, with Rachel hoping to reconnect with her father and her sister. The technical aspects of the film are apparent with some great camera work. The lighting and cinematography work excellently; the unfussy and bland style is deliberate and suits the tone of the film, which is more character and dialogue driven.
Laura Webster’s performance as Rachel is a real highlight of the film, particularly when she is up against Sarah (Rachel Murray) and the two actresses have great onscreen chemistry. The conflict between the two characters is an interesting one, and takes the extreme and tragic circumstances of their father’s dementia to keep them together.
The film’s central theme is about reconnecting with loved ones and it tackles the issue in a sensitive way. It might be too late for Rachel to connect with her father, but she can still fix her relationship with Sarah. The film understands the complexities of family life and recognises that things are never as clear-cut as we want them to be. This is perhaps the most salient point to take away from the film, that in life, when looking for one thing, you may just find something else in its place.
Everybody has had an experience in their life that they cannot forget it will always be there, haunting you. Ron Graves presents Echo, an unmerciful examination of what can push someone over the edge and how it transforms their lives. The film tackles Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affecting police officers, set in a mundane English town where if something of significance does happen, it can hit harder than ever.
Hayden Scott is Tommy, a policeman who is happy to live a normal life, until he comes up against a life-or-death situation on the job. The experience of fighting off a murderer and holding a dead woman is a profoundly disturbing one. Scott is capable of conveying Tommy’s emotional turmoil and frustration without the use of any dialogue.
As Tommy begins to display symptoms of PTSD, he finds himself even more stressed when people try to reach out to him. His best friend continuously attempts to find distractions or get him open up. His professional superiors want to ensure that he is mentally healthy to perform his duties. This creates the central conflict for Tommy, who wants to forget what happened rather than deal with it.
The acting isn't the only highlight of the film; the cinematography is nothing short of astonishing too. The cinematographer and set designer create a wonderfully bleak atmosphere where everything feels dull and uneventful. This creates a compelling narrative, and helps to signify fractured Tommy's state of mind and sense of helplessness.
The writing compliments this, creating a never-ending loop for the protagonist and perfectly capturing how mundane his life is while he struggles to deal with trauma. There is a fantastic sequence at the beginning where Tommy stands in front of an oncoming train, running out of harm’s way moments before the train passes. The scene works as a metaphor for Tommy who is desperately trying not to go “off the rails”. After witnessing the cause and extent of his trauma, we see him return to the same spot at the end of the film, thus suggesting an endless cycle of despair.
A combination of strong performances, cinematography and writing, Echo is an in-depth study of what it takes for a person to be pushed to the edge and the lengths it takes to stay on track.
'Waves Over Sand' and 'Echo' were film submissions in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2018.