LONDON SHORT FILM FESTIVAL - London Lives 3
Thursday 13 February 2020, by
Thrive (Jamie Di Spirito, 2019)
A sublimely intelligent and sensitive film, which sees a hook-up move into a challenging conversation. A naked man wakes up, lights up a cigarette and smokes out the window – through which the daylight outside illuminates the whole room. This is the only light source in the film, and it’s used brilliantly. Grindr buzzes. His date comes over, and they’re kissing almost before he’s through the door. The orange curtain is drawn, turning the generous daylight into a warm luminescent wall, against which the sex scene unfolds, the two of them simultaneously bristling with hunger and tenderness. When the dialogue finally comes in, it necessarily makes a point of how wordless the film had been until then. Rejecting an invitation to breakfast, the man pulls the curtains back, and suddenly the scene is plunged back into cold daylight. The following conversation hurtles into the crucially underexplored grey area of HIV in the age of antiretroviral drugs, which render the virus undetectable and untransmittable. It delves truthfully into that quality of togetherness unique to gay romance, by which ties of attraction are ties of community. The dynamic between the two characters flickers mercurially; one moment they’re lovers, the next moment they’re brothers in solidarity. Held up by excellent cinematography and a beautifully understated central performance, the film finds a well of tenderness and complexity in the most ostensibly meaningless of hook-ups. It’s a triumph.
3 Sleeps (Christopher Holt, 2019)
In this gritty short, the trust a mother places in the maturity of her eldest daughter proves more well-founded than she could have guessed. She leaves her, in the opening scene, in charge of her two sisters. It’s night and the girl doesn’t want her to go; seeing her fear (and hearing the music rise ominously), we get the feeling that there is more to the situation than a child’s stubborn attachment to her mum as she tries to go about everyday business. Sure enough, when they wake up she’s still gone – for ‘three sleeps’, possibly to Spain – and they have to fend for themselves. They spend what little money their mum gave them (with the instruction to not to spend it all on sweets) on sweets. The situation goes from bad to worse for the three sisters, with mum completely unresponsive to their phone calls, and it’s almost unwatchable – not because of physical violence, but just because they’re so completely helpless. The yellowish strip lighting beautifies nothing, and feels straight out of the more recent offerings from Ken Loach. When the end credits reveal that the film was based on a true story, the horror is accompanied by a strange sense of relief that the stress of seeing it might have somehow been a necessary form of witness-bearing. The film might not do much more than put its audience though a gripping and difficult watch, but in fulfilling that goal it’s very successful.