Review - Checking Out
This quaint film written by William Heath tells the story of revelations that emerge after the passing of an old man. Three characters, his widowed wife, a friendly neighbour, and a long lost love, each tell their part with the film split in three between them.
Each of the characters talked directly to the camera explaining events as they had perceived them. It started with the neighbour Julie, played by Vicky Stone, setting the scene and describing the funeral and introducing us to the characters of Elise, played by Leah Aspden, and eventually Eddie, played by Nathaniel Jones. However this direct to camera approach made it feel more like a documentary-style film or that we were part of some gossip rather than the drama its script was trying to convey.
A huge variety of locations were used, shifting from a back garden, to a store room, to a kitchen. Each of these was dressed well, creating believable surroundings to each scene. This was nicely complemented by the lighting in many scenes, which allowed areas of the background to drop off into shadow to draw focus towards the character. The lighting and set reinforced the documentary-like feeling with both the lighting and layout of the scene at times mirroring that often used in the genre. Particularly in the final scene which had Elise sitting down next to a small table starting with a line on how it was 'time to say [her] piece' as if to an interviewer. This style conflicted with other moments of connection between the audience and characters and fell into an uncanny valley of not quite one genre or another.
Characters were supported greatly by the use of costume and makeup thanks to Kat Cooper and Isabel Dernedde. With each character retelling events that had happened, it helped ground who they were and give the audience further understanding of them. Impressive work was done to age Leah into the 85 year old Elise that absolutely paid off. The drastic change it enabled created a believable look to the character that benefited the immersion.
Another strength of this film was its clear audio which which was well balanced and sharp. This drew particular attention to the words of the monologues of each character. However this also reinforced the documentary feeling with at times the audio seeming too sharp and clear to be natural given what was being seen on screen. Music by Romain Bornes gently punctuated the film and its emotional beats, flowing with the words of the actors and drawing the audience in.
Visually each scene was separated by a ticking clock, with the additional timecards reading '9:00 am' and '4:00 pm' the imagery of time felt heavy handed, given that there were larger themes addressed. There were also instances of overlaying two visuals when one character was quoting another. This maybe didn't work as intended and left me feeling as though it was non-committal as to if it wanted to stay on the speaker or try give a face to the words we were hearing. There were some noticeable jump cuts mid scene, likely due to using different takes, which felt jarring each time.
Overall 'Checking Out' was an unassuming film that, while it may have felt more like a documentary, still told a heartfelt story of love and time. The themes and plot were engaging and the combination of three monologues to create a full story created nuance. Orange Script Productions' first show is a strong starting point and I look forward to seeing what they have in store next.
Written by - H. Dovell