White Awake (2015). A 15 minute film that deserves your attention. Read my review for why.


Film review by Jason Day of the short film directed by Alex Kyrou about a successful man working with his therapist to resolve issues he has with his parents. Starring Hainsley Lloyd Bennett and Meryl Griffiths.

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Director: Alex Kyrou. 15 mins. Sixty Clicks.


3stars Good worth watching

Synopsis, from IMDb

A successful man and his therapist unravel the troubles of the present by awakening the memories of his past.

Review, by Jason DayWhite Awake poster

An abiding lesson from my Psychology Ba (hons) days was a quote from an eminent psychologist whose name remains locked in the recesses of my memory banks, that Psychology’s only real achievement, after around 100 years of existence, had been in the design of chocolate boxes.

A harsh summation of the discipline, but its a quote I’ve never forgotten and one I still use when any psychologist starts pontificating about the importance of their profession.

It’s with an interested view then that I approached this crisply shot short film from writer/director/editor Kyrou, which has a psych therapy session at its core, a difficult narrative set-up as fluffy talking can pall on an audience unless one has a bag of clever cinematic tricks to fling at them (see Hitchcock’s Spellbound, 1945).

Testament to his obvious gifts as a filmmaker he is able to keep this relatively long short film involving. It’s a shame that the resolution of Joshua’s problems (that his adoptive mother was a loving but sometimes neglectful alcoholic) lacks emotional wallop. The pay-off for the audience feels limp, but then this gentle piece is not Hitchcock melodrama.

I really do admire the cinematography throughout the film, from Westbrook, who has handled the camera for a number of short films. The set up is mostly from a child’s height, which also mirrors the eye level of Joshua and his therapist Natasha.

There is a neat sound design: the muffled, stylised voices of Joshua’s parents at the beginning, as if the frosted glass on the door and Joshua’s memory have hazed out the argument for Griffiths to uncover during the sessions. There is no dialogue during these moments, likewise when the family visit the beach, clear communications only occurs within the non-judgemental comfort of Natasha’s room.

However, the whistling of the kettle which is about to boil, representing the peak of his parent’s argument, is a clumsy cinematic cliche.

There is a theme of collecting, amassing things: Joshua has a pile of memories to be sorted through to find the solution to healing his past. Young Joshua sifts through seaweed during a family trip to the beach and picks up a dead seahorse rather than his preferred shells, the theme of finding things is strongly depicted.

The seahorse carries many symbolic meanings, including perspective and patience, qualities Joshua has to continue with his psychological journey. (It also, funnily enough, resembles the hippocampus, a structure in the brain which has an important role in memory consolidation).

The very comfortable, conversational exchange between Bennett and Griffiths comes at least in part from performances that make it easy for the viewer to slip into the therapeutic relationship and feel like a fly on the wall listening in.

For more on the film, contact the film’s promoter Clare Shields.

Cast & credits

Producer: Clare Shields.
Writer: Alex Kyrou.
Camera: James Westbrook.
Music: Paul O’Brien.
Sets: Christopher Stylianou.

Hainsley Lloyd Bennett, Meryl Griffiths, La-Shane Dawkins-Mcleod, Sallyann Fellowes, Nick Ewans.


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