Every now and then something powerful comes along, and To Whom It May Concern, written, directed, and produced by Ben Johnson and co-produced by Murphy Rhodes, falls into that bracket as it sensitively tackles a subject most care to avoid – or to forget.
We’ve all had days when it feels like we’ve had enough and we say, ‘let’s call it a day.’ But what about when it’s even deeper than that, when what we really want to say is, ‘let’s call it a life.’ This short film captures that very predicament when a man, Adam (Rhodes), heads to the woods with no intention of returning, the lingering shots of the texts on his phone capturing the banality of modern life when we just don’t talk anymore, when there is no one properly there for you.
But what if there is? At the moment when Adam is teetering on the edge, a stranger, Tony, (Damian Speed) appears who is faced with the same fatal decision. With strong performances from both actors, there is much in their behaviour that you can recognise and believe.
This is undoubtedly a delicate subject and so it is much credit to this young team who have been brave enough to embrace it and tackle it head on in this intricate piece that is careful not to judge. I don’t believe people consciously take their lives, rather that they find themselves in a place where they can see no other way, and this film evocatively captures that moment as the stranger, in the same position, simply asks, ‘why are you here?’
Part of the success of the piece is its short duration. At just over eight minutes it is long enough to set a scene and draw us in with its tinges of black humour whilst not getting bogged down in the detail of what, hopefully, most of us will never have to know. Yet, at the same time, it’s long enough to succinctly capture the confusion that is often left behind when people try to piece together an incomplete jigsaw to make sense of why, and it certainly stays with you as you reflect afterwards: am I there for the people who matter to me?
Director of Photography Ben Chan with support from Cedric Davies excels in capturing the loneliness of a life exposed whilst natural beauty pervades every scene, enough you hope to touch our characters. Sound Editor Dan Wishman with support from James Burgh equally captures nature knocking at the not-yet-closed door through birdsong and the gently blowing wind whilst more importantly allowing silences to hang in the air. Music from Bex Sykes Music and Ben Paveley reflect the ever-changing mood and moment as our characters twist and turn…with their decisions.
To Whom It May Concern is available free to view via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWhpnPU1TnI
Reviewer: Mark Davoren
Reviewed: 24th September 2017