School of Cultural Studies and Humanities

Harrogate Film Festival Reviews

Chelsea Hallal, Media Communication Cultures student, shares her reviews of some of the films showcased at the Harrogate Film Festival, of which the university’s Northern Film School is a key partner.

Published on 10 Mar 2020
postcards promoting the harrogate film festival on a table

Addiction - Film Review, Harrogate International Film Festival

Focusing around drug addiction, this film was truly an eye opener. Although there were some disturbing and graphic elements, I really enjoyed watching the performance as the storyline was so compelling and well thought out. Many people deal with drug addiction within the UK alone, and it is massively stigmatised.

However, this film portrayed the protagonists in a positive light. The drug abuser experienced trauma from a young age, which as an audience we’re encouraged to believe his mother has passed away. The main actor became neglected by his father but has got his brother who wants to help him overcome this distress and become a fantastic father to his daughter.

I felt very emotional towards this film and thought it was beautifully shot. There were many close up camera shots which invited us to feel close to the main character; which perhaps adds to the emotive impression it had on me.

I think that the film had an overall didactic meaning to it; inspiring the audience to not stereotype towards those struggling and dealing with drug abuse. Everyone has their own personal struggles, and as a society we should try and cut down on our prejudices and pre-misconceptions. By the end of the film, the main character attended therapy and came out a much stronger and better brother, son and father.

It was a fantastic film, and gave voices to those struggling with drug addiction or any other form of addiction that seems to take over everyday life.

My Toughest Battle – Film Review, Harrogate International Film Festival

Wow. Where do I begin? This short film feature and original screen play was truly a fantastic watch. Focusing on men’s mental health, contemporary masculinity and the confusion that comes with the realisation was a real eye opener for a viewer of the opposite sex.

Having dealt with mental health problems myself, I can identify with the content and therefore felt moved by it massively; making me want to watch more. Not only that, but throughout the performance there were many up close shots/ camera angles; inviting the me in. Therefore encouraging me to almost feel what he was feeling. This definitely created a sense of intimacy and closeness which is a fab feature to have during a film that focuses on one’s personal headspace.

The use of mise-en-scene was also creative. I really liked that the main character visited his local medical practice to seek support. This use of setting worked really well with the film’s overall theme; adding that extra sense of reality to it. Through his body and verbal language, you could easily grasp that the main character, Mr Gill, felt uncomfortable when approaching his GP about his feelings of depression. I think that this contributed to the authenticity of the performance; allowing many to identify.

Utilising the protagonist’s mental thoughts was a creative way to incorporate both diegetic and non-diegetic sounds. As a viewer we shouldn’t be able to hear his thoughts, but this film made that possible; and therefore this made me feel a stronger emotion towards him than I perhaps wouldn’t have felt if I didn’t hear the personal discussions he was challenged with. The non-diegetic tune at the end, “blessed” was a really cool way to end the performance as the lyrics correlated with the overall feeling of the film beautifully. 

Overall the film was compelling and gave a true insight into men’s mental health, which is not spoken about enough. I think that the confusion he faced, is faced by many throughout society. It just needs to be demonstrated in popular media more often in the hope to erase the stigma surrounding how a man should/ shouldn’t feel emotionally and physically.

This was one of my favourite films from the drama shorts, it captured my attention immediately. It gave a voice to those battling against mental health and society’s mantras whilst trying to make others happy. Excellent film. Well done filmmakers, and I also loved the finale track.

Remember, it's ok not to feel ok.

Stand Still – Film Review, Harrogate International Film Festival

More than 1 in 10 women experience postnatal depression within a year of giving birth. This statistic is not discussed enough throughout society which is why some women, and especially the protagonist within this film may feel isolated and a “bad mother”. As the audience, I could see that she felt she had failed as a parent through her general anger, anxiety and lack of motivation to make an effort. This was upsetting to watch; making me very emotional towards her and the baby.

She also experienced distress dealing with her heavy menstrual cycle whilst dealing with her mental illness which hit home with myself; making me feel very emotional again.

At times, I felt that the main character felt very isolated and not supported by her partner/ father of the baby. This made me feel sorry for her which when she had gotten support from the nurse I felt a sense of belonging for her and felt happy that someone had shown love and support for both her and her baby. It was genuinely beautiful to see. The main character played it well and the nurse was a beautiful performer inside and out. The relationship between the pair flourished effortlessly in such a small amount of time, which was a heart-warming experience.

The theme of this film isn’t explored enough in popular media, so to see such a compelling storyline was encouraging. I honestly really enjoyed this short film, I cried throughout as I felt touched by the storyline. I would definitely recommend others to watch it if they’ve experienced an illness similar to this or want to help someone else going through it.

Chelsea Hallal
Media, Communications & Culture Student, Leeds Beckett University


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