Alright Here...? [Benjamin Coakley, UK, 2020]

“If you are lonely when you are alone, you are in bad company.” It’s fair to say that Jean Paul Sartre wouldn’t have foreseen the catastrophic fallout of a globally destructive pandemic occurring in the 21st century, and yet the profound universality of his existential adage rings as resonantly now as it would have in wartime Europe. The collective sense of isolation and loneliness during this unprecedented worldwide event is symptomatic not of the crisis itself, but the cultural zeitgeist within which the coronavirus pandemic is merely a component. The virus has arguably acted as a catalyst in exposing pre-existing technological, environmental, economic, and psychocultural issues. Amongst the reactive glut of artistic projects clamouring to embody the spirit of these times, Benjamin Coakley’s Alright Here...? reveals both the potential and the inherent problem with producing art in isolation.

The short opens with an aerial establishing shot of a suburban neighbourhood location as Stevie Wonder’s jubilant ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours’ scores the introduction to each character. It is tonally a great use of opening music, revealing immediately the jocular intentions of the film, whilst the camera patiently builds towards various character revelations, lingering on extreme close-ups of their distinguishing physical features, and clueing us into prominent aspects of their lives without giving too much away. Despite a lack of professional tools or crew at Coakley’s disposal it is a scene steeped in cinematic language, helping to presuppose a range of character studies, and signalling a filmmaker that is cognisant of visual narrative conventions.