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Poolside [Alex Kinter & Erik Schuessler, USA, 2020]

‘How long do you have to be alone before you go crazy?’ Set in the 1950s America, Poolside is a suspense thriller with questions that run deep. Meg (Anne Beyer) is a lonely woman – cooped up in the vast spaces of her house with a huge swimming pool. But what are those voices she hears? Are they real? Or is it all in her mind? As Meg repeatedly questions her own strength to keep herself from going crazy, the audience perhaps realises the answer to her questions – it is a matter of time.

Poolside is visually delightful. The brightly lit interiors of the pool where Meg spends her time either swimming or writing her diary is in stark contrast to the bleak interiors she inhabits. Even her bright yellow swimming cap seems to make a statement. Anne Beyer carries the film, delivering a credible performance as a woman questioning her sanity. Beyer’s smily portrayal of Meg works to accentuate her deep desolation. Other performances are but minor roles, but they do their bit – the cleaning lady (Giovanny), the real estate agent eager to sell the house (Oscar Seung), the young couple eager for the bargain (Adam Lutrull and Jennifer Kristin).

The music by Darius Holbert adds just the right tone of suspense and mystery to this film, sometimes through contrast and, at other times, through being in sync with its mood. A word must be put in for the brilliantly indulgent graphics – so many short films cut down on credits to shorten the runtime. Not Poolside. The stylised opening credits build the theme and mood of the film, while the self-reflexive end credits with production stills remind us this is just a film.

The joint vision of directors Alex Kinter and Eric Schuessler is confidently realised, capturing the pain of this woman without the slightest melodrama. With such brilliant direction, cinematography, music and performances, one does wish that American films finally rise above stereotypes of the Mexican woman as the cleaner and the rich white married woman as the lonely soul.

Stereotypes notwithstanding, Poolside brings alive questions that are relevant beyond its immediate setting. The film will resonate well with audiences today, particularly in the global context of the pandemic where so many people are experiencing alienation and being alone like never before, where so many people have given up, and so many more are continually fighting the battle with the self.


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