School of Cultural Studies and Humanities

Harrogate Film Festival Reviews

Joes Reeves, Media Communication Cultures student, shares his film reviews from Harrogate Film Festival, of which the University's Northern Film School is a key partner.


Published on 10 Mar 2020

Second Skin

This German produced film was a brilliant watch that had a fantastic overriding theme of what I would call judgement and misogyny. I really enjoyed this film because of these themes and also how it was an almost silent movie. 

The basic plot is about a woman who was walking home and had to deal with different individuals and groups of people. These included German nationalists, a group of Turkish men and a self-help missionary. During each encounter the woman is being harassed either sexually (by the men) or being told to smile (by the female self-help missionary). In each meeting the woman has a tattoo to put these people off her and make herself seem different to them. She has a tattoo of a Swastika, some Arabic writing and what I believe to be an illuminati symbol. The film ends in the woman’s flat where she has anti-fascist posters on her wall. The final slow-mo shot of the woman in the shower finalised the narrative because it shows that people are different in public to what they are in private.

The overall theme of judgement really resonated with me because of the society that we are presently living in with the rise of hate speech and far/alt right political parties. The idea that symbols and drawings can show so much about a person really was a beautiful notion because it shows that people can see something and assume and judge that person without actually knowing anything about them. 

Visually, this film was stunning. The first shot was a one-take shot in a shop which I really enjoyed because it showed that no matter where this woman went she could not escape the German nationalist sexually harassing her. 

The tattooed woman never spoke and was a silent character which I think definitely added to the mystery of her because it made us question who she was and what her morals were throughout the whole 10-minute film. Although I did enjoy this film, I would have liked more of an explanation or a back story (hard to do in a short time) as to why the woman decides to do what she does. That being said, I really enjoyed this film because of how it resonates with today’s society. There is so much hate being spread and so much sexual harassment that it was nice to see the woman essentially come out on top. I liked that the woman didn’t have to say anything to get people to stop talking to her and this was a really clever idea from the writers. 


Kaleidoscope was a visually delightful film to watch, despite its emotional story line. This film’s prevailing theme is that of domestic abuse which is slowly revealed throughout the plot. The story begins with the little boy who is playing by himself in his bedroom before school. The father and boy have a fantastic relationship as they get ready for school and work respectively. The shot where they both leave the house and then enter after their day was simple yet effective because it showed that there had been a time progression, but it was the same shot which I just really enjoyed visually.

The young boy in the film was a fantastic actor who really managed to capture the innocence of childhood at the start of the film and then how this can be snatched away within an instant. The boy’s innocence was represented by how he would play with toys at the start and even by how he was sat at the breakfast bar. The motif of the goggles played an important part in the film because at the start, the child wears them to pretend to be an explorer. By the end of the film, the boy uses his goggles to hide his tears and his sadness because of what he has witnessed. This really struck a chord with me as it was something that has such an innocent meaning and is just a toy and it is now used to hide a young boy’s emotion.

The colour scheme in the film was light and there were a lot of bright colours which represented how the child lived a care-free life and was happy. After he witnesses the abuse and the mother leaves, the colour scheme changed, and the film became a lot more gloomy and the colours are darker. This visually represented how the boy’s life completely changed and how things were far more negative living alone with just his father. 

I think the overall point of this film was to show that something may look good and positive in public but behind closed doors things are very different. The plot was simple and fairly predictable, but I think that made it far more effective. If this was a long film with a complex plot I don’t think it would have had the same impact on me as it did. 

This film was visually beautiful and managed to tell the story in a compelling and effective way and I really enjoyed this film. 

Dinner With Mum

Dinner With Mum was a short film that explored dementia but from the point of the person suffering with the illness, rather than a family member or an outsider. 

Out of all the films that I watched during the festival; this was my favourite. I don’t have any criticism or any issues with this film and I thought it was perfect from the opening shot right up until the closing. 

The story is very simply about a mother who invites her grown up daughter round for dinner. Throughout the story we see how the mother starts to struggle with her illness and forgets obvious things such as the daughter being a vegetarian and later on the daughter being pregnant. 

Dinner With Mum was strikingly shot and filmed because it was such a simple setting of a house, but this was played with throughout the film. There was subtle changes such as the dinner changing from one meal to another and the mother walking out the kitchen without her coat then seeing the shot from the living room with her wearing a coat. These changes I think represent how people who struggle with dementia often miss out parts of their life and do things but have no idea why they did them. 

Meryl Griffiths, who played the mum, acted with passion and intensity and this definitely added to the emotion of the film and gave real conviction to her character. The make-up in this film really added to the effectiveness of it because the mother visibly aged which showed her stress and showed how much the illness affected her both emotionally and physically. 

The film ended with an out-of-focus shot and I think that really was the perfect ending because it visibly showed the mothers confusion and left me feeling incredibly empathetic towards this character who I have only known for 6 minutes. 

Overall this short film was, for me, a perfect film as it made me feel a real connection to this character who is suffering with an illness that I believe is severely underrepresented in film.

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