‘Night Owls: A Film by Sophie Black’ reviewed

­­❉ A teenage runaway breaks into the house of a reclusive man, in this award-winning short film.

Long-term We Are Cult readers may recall our coverage of Triskelle Pictures’ indie film Songbird, written by multi-award-winning British screenwriter Tommy Draper (Pro Kopf, Stop/Eject), directed by Sophie Black (Ashes) and starring Janet Devlin.

The latest film from Triskelle, Songbird’s production team, is director Sophie Black’s Night Owls, a short film which recently had a successful festival run and which stars Jonny McPherson (Emmerdale) as Kent and Holly Rushbrooke as Mari.

The plot of Night Owls (co-written by Black and Tommy Draper) is deceptively simple: a thirty-something man, at home alone, hears a noise at the door during a storm. Investigating, he discovers a young girl in the process of breaking in.  She pleads with him to be let in out of the rain and, against his better judgement, he relents and allows her in. The two talk.

It’s the conversation between the two which forms the bulk of the film.  Some viewers may wonder what two people could talk about together all night, but those people have probably never seen a film by Ingmar Bergman, a director whose greatest output features nothing more than people talking to each other candidly and revealing truths about themselves, and through themselves about the human condition.

It’s a ripe subject, and one Black and Draper mine carefully; far more is left unsaid than said here, allowing the audience a refreshing amount of space to fill in the blanks.  We don’t know why David is home alone, but by dawn we have enough information to give him a complete backstory (pleasingly, there’s little way of knowing if we’re right or not.  It’s not that the film is vague about important details, simply that the audience is assumed to have more intelligence than most films credit them with).  Similarly, we have no idea why Mari was beaten up prior to her attempted house-breaking, but we’re told enough that we can imagine why.

With the script shading the characters rather than colouring them in fully, the actors playing the roles have a lot of space to work with, and both make the most of it, giving rounded and credible performances that really allow the characters to seem real.  Both Jonny McPherson and Holly Rushbrooke are new names to me (given that this is Rushbrooke’s first credit she’s a new name to most people), which helps them sell the characters as credible people, but both are people I can imagine going on to higher profile work.  Rushbrooke in particular does well in conveying that unusually confident whilst equally clueless attitude that encapsulates young adulthood.

Behind-the-scenes on ‘Night Owls’. Photo credit: Elly Lucas.

If anything, the film is frustrating because it’s too short; at only fourteen minutes I wanted to spend more time in the company of this couple and, crucially, to know what happened next.  That’s testament to the strengths on display here. This is a great entry point to the world of short films, just as impressive, exciting, unusual and fresh as the feature-length film, and with just as much raw talent and energy, and perhaps with more to prove than their full-length brothers, which means that most short films have a great deal to offer.

❉ Directed by Sophie Black. Produced by Lauren Parker and Sophia Ramcharan. Written by Sophie Black and Tommy Draper.

❉ “Night Owls” will be released online on Monday 2 October 2017.

❉ Visit Triskelle Films’ Night Owls Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/NightOwlsMovie/

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