Short Film Review: DEIRDRE (2016)

We all come from different walks of life. Our paths are forged through experience, belief, council and chance. Each step as we get older guides us to new areas of our lives that at one moment may seem like they fit and other times like it just does not feel right. Based in 1970’s rural Ireland, the short form film entitled DEIRDRE takes the viewer through some of the defining moments that will shape a young woman’s destiny. Produced, written and directed by Jo Southwell, DEIRDRE is a tale that portrays the true horror of regret, religion and the fear to find your true place but feels rushed.

Based on Irish folklore, this tale does not live up to what I had hoped it would be, but let me explain. I am taking nothing away from the overall effort and film. The cinematography for DEIRDRE captures the texture of the Irish countryside with the overcast sky, rustic village, long fields and lighting that allows the shadows to set the mood of growing dread and tension unfolding during the running time. The score is charming. It gives a sense of historic pride and wonder that many cultural soundtracks cannot muster or induce. The costuming is traditional and gives a timeless feel that adds another layer to each character. The overall performances range from adequate to powerful. The connection of lost, love, destiny, lore, conflict and regret are a mix that grows thicker with each beat bringing a coming-of-age of horror and beauty. Southwell is smart in how she constructs the triangle surrounding Deirdre and those who want her to join them.

Deirdre is brought to life by the talented actress India Mullen. Mullen, who at first I believed to be a mute or possibly possessed, proves that her voice and dialogue is not needed to convincingly emote passion, anger and wonder found within this character who knows that there is something being hidden from her and that there is more destine for her then her religious mother will let her do or know. Deidre’s mother is captivating. The growing penance released onto Deirdre is terrifying at times and so sad at others. We see her mother fill that void with her religious belief that has caused her to become bitter and angry. Pulling a page from the CARRIE playbook of mothering made famous by Piper Laurie, we see true power performances that offer a frightening reality of what belief can do to a person scorned including a very emotional and dark baptism style sequence that shook me a bit inside.

As I have said, the issue I have does not stem from the performances or technical side of this project but perhaps in the editing of this film. For me, I was very satisfied through three quarters of this short, feeling a connection to Deirdre’s struggle and conflict. However, in the end, I felt robbed by the abruptness and chaos of the ending as well as the reveal of her destiny which confused me even more. Perhaps it was better to not have said this at all or perhaps used this prophecy in the opening to set up the story? It felt like because this was a film festival cut of the short, which needs to be under twenty minutes for most fests, it needed to abruptly end and have the audience told what was going on instead of fully realizing and being satisfied with the overall completed story.

Jay Kay
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