Take Care [Djamel Turner, UK, 2020]

Oozing with atmosphere, Take Care gives a fine example of the exciting promise of young filmmakers, whilst still falling foul of many of the errors that are typically ironed out through experience. Positively dripping with angst, the short packs a nostalgic punch, but this often plays second fiddle to a sense of emotional immaturity.

When our young adult male lead, Magnus (played by director/actor/producer Djamel Turner), goes for a night out on the town, his drink-addled mind pines for a past love, Layla. Unable to quench his longing, Magnus phones her in an ill-fated attempt to rekindle the relationship. Over the course of a phone call, we learn of the highs and lows of their past union, with flashback sequences taking place and paired with a voiceover, giving context to their ruthless shared passion. Take Care’s opening kicks proceedings off promisingly, with smartly used lighting and colouring showing off a real kinship between the director and his chosen medium. As the light bounces off the dingy, rain-splatted, cobbled stones outside the ‘Horse & Groom’ pub, Magnus’ cigarette smoke mixes in the air, concocting an atmosphere as toxically inviting as Magnus and Layla’s relationship.

For every strong visual scene however, there is its counterbalance, here observed through the rudimentary filter placed over the top of subsequent flashback sequences. The hazy addition lacking the visual assuredness required to create a satisfying effect for the viewer. Whilst its delivery is questionable, it is also worth noting that its inclusion is by no means vital. The viewer can be trusted to piece together the chronology of the piece through the context of the phone call they are witnesses to, the device seeming an unnecessary and distracting addition.

Alas for Take Care, its biggest drawback is a cliché-ridden script. Platitudes such as references to “our song” or to weeks’ worth of time spent “crying myself to sleep” add up to our characters feeling one-dimensional and hollow. A further strange feature of the script, that some may find grating, is the shear frequency with which we are reminded of our characters’ names. In a mere five-minute run time, the forenames of Magnus and Layla (in their various deviations) are mentioned eleven and ten times respectively. Script deficiencies such as these often require a bit of patchwork from their actors to plaster over the cracks. Whilst the acting on display here indeed displays some potential, these are still performers new to their craft, with tools in need of some fine tuning.

Whilst there are signs of promise here, particularly in regards to lighting and colouring, there is nothing overly cinematic in the narrative or camera work to hold the viewer’s attention for long. For an early student piece in a young creative’s career, this film will undoubtedly have acted as an important learning curve, and Take Care may well act as an interesting starting point in Djamel Turner’s journey.

'Take Care' was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2020.

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