Director: Dia Taylor
Writers: Dia Taylor
Cast: Emily Noone, Peter Tran
Running time: 6:20 mins
When handling something as complex and nebulous as mental health, subtlety is the greatest ally of any filmmaker. Without the capacity to resist the inherent urge of narrative cinema to deliver closure, a film that attempts to handle topics such as anxiety, personality disorders, or depression can come off as overly simplistic, or even demeaning of those who continue to live with the aforementioned issues.
Writer/Director Dia Taylor’s effort to address the matter of depression might raise more than a few eyebrows in that case, as her film Blue sees a young woman wake up to discover that, low and behold, her skin has taken on an unexpected new hue. This is less Blue Man Group and more Halloween costume in terms of a make-up effect, by the way, with visible paint-lines which are more than a little distracting throughout the story. While the idea of smurfing up your lead actor might seem more than a little didactic to some moviegoers, I think the concept is perhaps the most charming aspect of the film.
This is more than a little due to the film’s central performance. Despite being entirely deprived of dialogue, in certain sparse moments Emily Noone’s lead emits a glimmer of the wide-eyed charm of a German expressionist star, pulling off a mixture of shock and apprehension that filmmakers will no doubt have fun toying with for many projects to come. At the same time, the walls seem to be closing in on her – and with a limited cast and budget, Taylor does well to seemingly orchestrate the world against her main character. The shambling individuals who shuffle past our main character gradually pen her in, wordlessly berating her with blank, unfeeling stares that see straight through the flesh-coloured make-up she has daubed over her true, blue self.
It is these times, almost touching on the emotional essence of cinema’s silent era, in which Taylor’s film holds its own, both as a cohesive short film and an examination of what it is like to live with depression. To know that the rest of the world cannot comprehend what is going on inside your body, while instead hordes of strangers gaze at you expectantly, waiting for you to conform, and perform as they do.
Unfortunately, the moments are fleeting, and quickly stumbled through, instead of being adequate time to breathe. An overbearing and insufferably upbeat score bludgeon the audience about the skull more than foreshadow the turnaround which is to occur. The conclusion is more than a little unsatisfactory, and seems to imply that if you can find just one person who knows what you are going through, everything comes up rosy.
In the interest of transparency, I must admit I have not suffered from depression myself, so my conclusions on this film do have to be taken with more than a pinch of salt – and please, if you have personal experience then correct me, but I do not think things are nearly as simple. Sadly, having known a great many people with depression in my life, I have also seen that they are seldom as miserable or even aggressive as when they are in the company of others like themselves. It seems if anything to exacerbate their anguish, especially if they are not undergoing therapy or medicated – both of which are the case for the film’s lead.
Aside from this, the film is regrettably non-committal to its silent format. The majority of the film is unspoken, but a confusing breakfast scene draws us out of this world abruptly. As a family happily banters while munching noisily at the communal table, we are left to wonder why nobody has anything to say to our lead, and why she has nothing to say to them. If that is purposeful, then perhaps it would be better to not include speech at all.
Indeed, thanks to this out of place scene, we spend the remainder of the six minutes waiting for verbal stimulus that never arrives. This becomes increasingly irritating, meaning that while the noiseless action does work best if you view it in isolation, as a component of the broader film; the silent shtick begins to wear thinner than the lead character’s make-up.
Filmmakers, or indeed artists of any kind, walk a fine line between overthinking ideas to the point of never getting anything done, and rushing too eagerly to complete an underdeveloped idea. There is a solid concept at the heart of this film – but it is not well delivered upon. If Taylor can learn the patience to do her ideas justice in the future, it will see her go far.
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