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Give Me a Name [Sheena Holliday, UK, 2020]

The rise of dystopian narratives in the last decade seems more conspicuous or even extreme than in the past. With movies such as Snowpiercer [Bong Joon Ho, South Korea, 2013], Blade Runner 2049 [Denis Villeneuve, USA, 2017] and The Hunger Games [Gary Ross, USA, 2012], to name only a few, audiences have been presented with dark yet seemingly unlikely prospects.

The universes created in those films often portray a society ruled by a corrupt and depraved government that employs inhumane practices to control its people. They're generally nightmare-like and stylised enough to appear distant and improbable while actively drawing from certain qualities of contemporary society to function as a radical political commentary. However, the dystopian world portrayed in Give Me a Name, directed by Sheena Holliday, does not appear distant or improbable. It feels disturbingly familiar and imminent.

Set in the future, about ten years from now, this short follows two women, Kate (Lucy Wilkins) and Jennifer (Katie Pattinson), working for an authoritarian government. While having a conversation about a new detainee arrested for crimes against the state, one of them is keen to follow the rules, and the other one faces the illusion of choice and struggles with her conscience.

Give Me a Name opens with a series of close-ups of Kate, which somewhat dehumanizes her and presents her as, first and foremost, a government employee and not a human being. After an impressive beginning that sets the tone of the film, the subsequent sequence goes slightly downhill. Compared to the high quality of the rest of the film, the scene set in the white corridor appears out of place. The overexposed shot of Kate walking by the windows is one of the most noticeable. But it's the awkward bird's eye-like shot of the two women that's immensely jarring. The film could have benefited from a much simpler shot choice that could have enhanced the scene's clinical nature.

Holliday’s masterful craft is evident in her clever decision to shoot the two characters differently. They are positioned on opposite sides of the frame while rarely occupying the same one. Accompanied by the use of low-key lighting, this technique emphasizes their imbalanced power dynamic and disparity of their morality. The intense score’s rhythm reminds us of the ticking clock, and ties the story together. At the very beginning and end of the film, its use creates a sense of repetitiveness that cannot be escaped, just like none of the characters can escape the regime in which they are trapped.

Give Me a Name depicts an alarming vision of the near future, where even women, traditionally portrayed as motherly and nurturing, become cold and conforming. It becomes even more relevant in light of current political events, acting as a reminder and warning that not all rules should be followed.


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