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SHORT FOCUS 2022: Throw Your Heart Over First [Mark McAuley, Ireland, 2021]

“Throw your heart over first and the rest will follow, he used to say. I wanted to make him proud; I hope he is,” says Dave, a bereaved actor fighting for an audition on the day of his dad’s funeral. As we watch his struggle, he looks back at us, challenging, appealing. Yet all we can do is observe, powerless to steer the unfolding situation.

Propelled by raw emotion, Throw Your Heart Over First challenges our assumptions, as Dave wrestles to control himself and focus on his screen test. Brushing off the concerns of others and bribing his way to the front of the queue, he desperately strives to balance his personal priorities. “Do what you did in the first audition, only better,” comes an encouraging word from the crew.

From within him, uncertainty, regret, ambition, and self-reflection rub against one another in a race to the surface, erupting into a monologue that is at once revealing and haunting. Faced with the opening line of “I couldn’t have done anything more” on his script, Dave begins to question how this relates to his own situation. Repeatedly tripping over or blanking on his next line – “it’s the truth” – and lapsing into a rendition of ‘Why Was He Born So Beautiful?’, Dave’s sense of personal guilt emerges beyond his control.

Comprising a single eight-minute shot, we are placed into the studio as a direct onlooker, following Dave’s every move and becoming increasingly drawn into his story. Moving closer and closer in, the production staff vanish from view, leaving only Dave, the camera, and us. Filmed in black and white, there are no bright distractions from his grief, as though it has drained all the colour from the world. Written, directed, and starring Mark McAuley, with minimal supporting cast, Throw Your Heart Over First is simple, stirring, and skilfully executed.


'Throw Your Heart Over First' is part of the Official Selection at Short Focus Film Festival 2022. It screens in Programme One at Close-Up Film Centre on 17 September 2022. Tickets are available here.


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