25th Jan2021

‘Lavender’ Short Film Review

by Kevin Haldon

Stars: Libby Wattis, Caroline Vella, Michelle Grimshaw | Written and Directed by Andrew Ball-Shaw

Some of our longtime readers may know during the first national lockdown here in the U.K. I hooked up with the amazing folks at Romford Film Festival and became part of their selection team; which meant I had the opportunity of watch a ton of new shorts and features. One of which was a short movie called Lavender that I really liked and pushed to have it entered into some of the awards categories.

As this was my first year helping out with this, and ANY festival, I was surprised and truthfully blown away by the quality of the content. A lot of the British entries really struck a chord with me and it was amazing to me how powerful a 10-20 minute short could be. Lavender was definitely one of the ones that actually made me sit back and think a little differently about its subject. Recently Lavender has popped back up on my radar as it has been hitting other festivals and doing very well from what I can see. So I thought why not shine a light on this one in a review…

It’s pretty hard to sit here and write a synopsis for Lavender without giving the game away… It’s effectively a story told in two formats. The first is the present, where we meet Fern and her daughter Violet. Violet trying to find a way to help and care for her mother whose health has been declining as she is living with dementia. Fern spends most of her days in a sort of daydream like state; which is where the second format comes in – as we spend portions of the short in what feels like Fern’s memories. Violet has some hard choices to make about what is best for her mother in this heartbreaking short movie about one the worst diseases.

Off the bat I want to highlight the score of Lavender. Yes, the acting is great and the story is compelling but the score adds layer-upon-layer to this short that personally I feel cannot be understated.

Libby Wattis and her thousand yard stare is wonderful as Fern. It’s a funny one because your average person may look at this kind of performance and say “Well she’s not really doing anything” this is exactly the point though. This role is a delicate fine line of avoiding over/under acting that, personally, I thought she made work. There are one or two scenes in this short that I guess you could describe as a tad trope-y but thankfully we have an actress on form to make it believable and raw. Caroline Vella, as daughter Violet, is not as strong a performance as Wattis but she very much gets the feeling across. The desperation to get through and communicate with her mum is palpable and feels utterly real. I have never had to watch a person lose themselves to a heinous disease like this and I hope I never have to.

Of course there are a bunch of movies dealing with this topic and as of late I have seen a fair few shorts approaching the subject too. Lavender is one that stands out from the crowd in the intelligent and careful way director Andrew Ball-Shaw has shown us what I believe to be the state Fern is in, holding onto those last fleeting memories in the Lavender fields. I don’t mean to sound heartless but I don’t exactly want to watch 20 odd minutes of a woman staring out the window so when we flip to her thoughts and have gorgeous cinematic images mixed with that wonderful score… well as I said previously, it’s layers upon layers. It’s no wonder this short is doing so well on the festival circuit.

I loved Lavender and honestly I think these short-form movies dealing with these topics are super important, especially when done correctly… My only real criticism of this short is a nit-pick at best and that was that I felt it was maybe a tad too long, the film could possible have lost a minute or two. There were one or two moments I thought were a tad cliched and while I completely understand why they are in there, I just feel like Wattis alone could of sold this and maybe that’s where we lose a couple minutes. Again though that’s a very small criticsm of a short movie that is, for the most part, flawless in its execution.

**** 4/5


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