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Whitewater [Tom Hamilton, UK, 2020]

A mystical woman, a redhead full of curls, walks out of the sea onto the shore with waves patting her legs, and observed by a lonely onlooker. The man, in his seventies, gazes at her and then hurries away. Director, Tom Hamilton, skilfully captures the mysteriousness in this confusion, illuminating the magic in the things we think we see, reminding us of how our vision often tricks us and leads us astray to wander in memories.

Dennis (played by Owen Aaronovitch) is as a lonely old man in a lonely old town, working as a mechanical technician. He is highly sensitive to his immediate environment, with noises evoking an almost hypnotised state – the squealing, screeching, and scratching of metal causing him to zone in and out of a trance; a siren signalling, or a boiling kettle fading sharply into his consciousness whenever the woman appears or is nearby. As viewers, we are stuck with the same uncomfortable feeling as Dennis; the paranoia, anxiety, and horror in the unexpected sounds and movements haunting both him and us, and leaving us to question exactly who this distant female figure is, lurking loosely and freely in the shadows.

The overall grey tones of the film express solitude and melancholia, the monochromatic colours lending softness to the images, whilst also implicating Dennis’ fragility. In certain shots, the use of light in direct juxtaposition with darkness emulates the stark features of Dennis' face, the woman’s contoured figure, and jagged waves of the sea.

Hamilton provides us with subtle visual clues to unravel the mystery of the story a small note, a photograph, and a ring. These small details are precisely the elements that propel the story in place of dialogue, of which there is little, affording the impact that a more word-heavy plot might lose, placing us right at the heart of Dennis’ emotions, and potentially elucidating the meaning of the mysterious woman and his own life.


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