Responding to Hull’s new status as a filmmaking hub, Ensemble 52 – traditionally a theatre company – has taken a move closer to the world of film, writes Michelle Dee.
The company’s short film debut ‘Nothing’ featuring Christopher Colquhoun begins to explore the issue of teen suicide, from the viewpoint of those left behind. Inspiration and the germ for the project came after writer Richard Vergette. was inspired by the tragic story of two teenagers in the care system.
Around that time in 2009 there had been a spate of young suicides across the country, including the so-called ‘suicide cult’ in Bridge End in Wales. Experts put forward any number of reasons for this apparent rise in teen suicide: social and broadcast media pressure, peer pressure, anxiety and depression due to exam pressure, pressure to conform or meet unrealistic ideals and also suggestions of a dark glamour, even status, attached to the act of suicide.
Nothing, is more a film about survivors’ guilt and the what happens afterwards. The moments before the suicide are briefly glimpsed within the opening credits. The rest of the film focuses around ‘Toni’ played by Evie Gallagher who, for whatever reason, didn’t do the same as her two best friends: Charlotte played by Freya Noman and Lucy played by Hannah Bell. Numb, the state of shock is indicated by her silence but you can see there’s a lot going on behind those eyes staring out from the screen.
The viewer is placed in the position of looking in from the outside, with just the very bare facts to inform what they are seeing. There is a hint towards the end of the twenty minute film, something that might give a clue, that maybe even shifts this story from being a tragic waste, to something else far more manipulative. If there is a darker side, then her would-be rescuer in the form of little Liam, a spirited performance given by Charlie Thompson, may actually be in danger.
The script is frustratingly fleeting, never enough detail to really get a handle on who the characters are and their role in the piece. The two adults, John played by Chris Colquhoun and Rachel, Sarah Naughton, you fathom must be staff from the institution, but where are the parents in all this? There’s a scene where Rachel is packing up one of the dead girl’s things, and she remarks that it is all going to charity. Whatever has happened, surely some relative of the deceased would come forward for her belongings?
Nothing gives little away about the reasons behind the girls taking their own life. It doesn’t explain what was happening in the rest of their lives, for them to think that, at such a young age, they had already experienced, the best of what life had to offer. The film offers no answers to the question why, so true to life, leaves the viewer feeling unresolved.
The cold institutional lighting and greyness of outside, gives the film a bleak tone; even the bright sunlit scenes are tinged with sadness, being as they are flashbacks, to when the three girls were alive and together. Made on a shoestring budget, filmed locally with a cast of secondary school pupils from Hull Trinity House Academy, Nothing could prove a useful tool for schools looking for a thoughtful approach, to a shocking yet enduring subject. In the meantime director Andrew Pearson is hoping Nothing will be viewed favourably on the Short Film Festival circuit.