Dirs: Eleanor Burke, Ron Eyal. US-UK. 2011. 77mins
A family affair, judging by the names on its end credits, Eleanor Burke and Ron Eyal’s modest first feature looks like a promising television prospect, pleasant and unassuming, but it is neither visually nor thematically enticing enough for a theatrical career. Festivals focusing on first films may however be interested in this tale of a chance encounter between a young woman about to sell the house of her deceased mother and a tramp who happens to squat for one night in that house.
Collins has the right kind of keenly innocent face that supports the part she plays, while Akhtar manages to preserve a touch of the predator in his otherwise benevolent conduct
Though the formula is a familiar one - two strangers from different worlds meet and find a common language despite their completely different backgrounds - the approach is unforced and sympathetic while Bridget Collins and Adeel Akhtar offer simple, unaffected performances that keep the piece together for its modest 77 minutes running time. The film screened at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival.
Oona (Collins), a young anthropologist, comes back to her late mother’s ramshackle cottage by the sea to clean it up and put it on the market. Swept over by memories, she accepts the invitation of a neighbor to spend the first night in her home and start working on the house only the next day.
Mani (Akhtar), a homeless vagabond, seeking a place to spend the night in, breaks into the empty house only to be awaken next morning by the voices of Oona and a real estate agent discussing the property’s potential. Later, Oona discovers the intruder, kicks him out but later stumbles on his diary filled with imaginative drawings, which suggests Mani may be a better person than he looks. She manages to find him at the nearest bus stop, returns the diary and offers to put him up for the next night in her shed.
Anyone who has seen enough movies knows that with such an opening gambit the film can go only one of two possible ways. Either the hobo turns out to be a maniac killer or he will turn out to be a sweet, nice man, despite his threatening appearance and ultimately the two protagonists will end up together. Burke and Eyal prefer the second option, even if they do not pursue it all through.
While Mani does not look at first sight like anyone a single woman would like to have around, he softens up after taking a long, relaxing bath, while Oona, still aching over the loss of a parent she was apparently very fond of, is too much in need of company to worry overmuch about the stranger’s presence. They start bonding, as they reveal each other’s pasts, and if they do not fall into each other’s arm before the end, the final shots imply it may very well happen a little bit later.
Burke, one of the film’s tandem of directors, who doubles as the cinematographer, inserts quite a few inspired shots of nature, landscapes or insects moving in the sun, but must also take the blame for the predominant use of close-ups all through the film which often suggests a lack of visual imagination (or possibly very strict budgets).
The script, which she wrote with Eyal, is on the thin side, with both characters are ultimately quite sketchy, but luckily, Collins has the right kind of keenly innocent face that supports the part she plays, while Akhtar manages to preserve a touch of the predator in his otherwise benevolent conduct which gives his presence in the film a slight but welcome ambivalence.
Production company/international sales: Faces Films, firstname.lastname@example.org
Producers/screenplay: Eleanor Burke, Ron Eyal
Cinematography: Eleanor Burke
Editors: Michael Taylor, Eleanor Burke
Production designer: Kristen Adams
Cast: Bridget Collins, Adeel Akhtar