Features Film

Short Film Watch #9

SHORT film watch returns with two excellent stories about young women.


Dancing Girls

5 STARS

THE peripheral appearance of Patti Smith’s 2010 book Just Kids in a scene of  Zeynep Köprülü’s short film Dancing Girls is a fitting one. This is a story, just like Smith’s memoir documenting her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, that gives a poetic look at youth and friendship.

Set in a small Turkish costal town, Dancing Girls follows two close friends on their final day together before one of them moves abroad. The two – Aslı (Nazlı Durak) and Melis (Elit Işcan) – spend the day wandering around and talking as their true feelings about this imminent life begin to spill out.

Işcan is mesmerising and charming as Melis, a young woman moving abroad in search of new opportunities. Melis wants to enjoy her final day in the town, but her playful attempts to cheer up Aslı – played by the equally impressive Durak – do not go down well.

dg_filmstill3
Aslı and Melis floating in the water. One of Köprülü’s symbolic images.

Hurt by her friend’s decision to leave, Aslı cannot conceal her pent up disappointment and fears about the future of their friendship. A sentiment that is echoed more cuttingly by their other friends who claim Melis was ‘born lucky’ – perhaps a reference to Melis’ family wealth or her dazzling looks.

With a stunning backdrop and Köprülü’s lyrical allusions, this is a short so enchanting that I felt sorry to be leaving it so soon. Particularly the summer evening scenes that, to the sounds of Son Feci Bisiklet‘s gentle song Bikinisinde Astronomi, evoke an irresistible summer romanticism similar to Luca Guadgnino’s Call Me By Your Name.

Dancing Girls is a relatable tale of the pains of growing up – and growing apart. A glimpse of disappearing youth captured beautifully in both the cinematography and acting.

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Melis (left) and Aslı (right)

A Picnic Table, At Dusk

5_star_ratings

IN the last few years we have been given precious films, such as Manchester By The Sea and A Ghost Story, that explore the impact of loss through quiet, thoughtful storytelling. Sheridan O’Donnell’s dialogue-less short film A Picnic Table, At Dusk can be added to that impressive list.

Introduced with scream of anger to disturb the peace of the film’s leafy suburban setting, Ivy (Taylor Hickson) is a young outcast teen dealing with a family tragedy on top of the usual pains of adolescence. The film follows her as strikes up an unlikely – and comforting – conversation with a mysterious stranger by leaving messages on a picnic table.

A Picnic Table, At Dusk Still 1080 - Ivy Scene 4 MED 2
Ivy (Taylor Hickson) sitting at the picnic table

Hickson is outstanding and, as O’Donnell pointed out in a recent Close-up Culture interview, her eyes and caps-block writing tell the story of a teenage outcast seeking connection and reassurance at a tough and ever-changing time in her life.

A fascinating and unique portrait of teen angst, A Picnic Table, At Dusk is the type of contemplative storytelling that will strike a chord with observant viewers. O’Donnell and Hickson display a subtleness and delicacy in the film’s execution that make this compelling viewing.

 

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