Black Pond

AMY LONTON-RAWSTHORNE is completely submerged by a true masterpiece from the Footlights’ most newly famous alumni.

Alumni Black Pond Chris Langham Film Footlights Tom Kingsley Will Sharpe

Directed by Tom Kingsley and Will Sharpe.

[rating: 5/5]

Only a few years since graduating from Cambridge, directors Tom Kingsley and Will Sharpe have masterminded a mesmeric and touching piece of cinematic art. Their command of the medium is poetry; their script a heady mix of realist tragedy and surrealist comedy. Having seen their budget cut to a tiny £25,000, they saw ‘crisis as opportunity’ – a resonant line in the script – to bring us this visceral mockumentary of a family’s inner workings.

With the feel of BBC’s Outnumbered, we see the Thompson family’s sad lives upturned as Blake (Colin Hurley), a disconnected and somewhat deranged widower, seeks to become part of what he calls their ‘beautiful family’. This is one of many hilarious ironies running throughout: the Thompsons are not beautiful.

Like the protagonists of American Beauty, their distressing inability to understand one another implodes beneath a middle-class veneer of Kodak moments, swimming pools and newspaper supplements. They are the black pond, beneath a smooth, icy surface. This collapse is compounded further by the film’s elegant juxtapositions of disorientating montage, soothing guitars and poetry of John Clare.


A beautiful film without beautiful people.

There is a real beauty to be found, however, in the implosion itself. Having initially complained to his wife, Sophie (Amanda Hadingue), that his dreams are ‘all quite pedestrian’, Tom’s (Chris Langham) haunting dream works as an apt synecdoche for the film’s poetic, Kafkaesque narrative. In saturated blue hues, accompanied by the clicking of early film reels, stills of his children and wife are manipulated back and forth in a stagnant, jerking manner. Other stills in the montage reveal faces submerged in water, the Black Pond, with ethereal trees and dancing skies. It’s a film fanatic’s treat that leaves one at once anxious and awakened.

The film flits assuredly between understated tragedy and kooky comedy. Sophie’s heart is dark, a result of her failure to craft a living through poetry, her endeavours teasing her from their forsaken spot in a box in the garage. This aspect of the film is particularly touching: a woman grieving the loss of hope, and desperately clinging to pages of pain about a failed marriage, one of which reads simply, ‘fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck…’. In striking contrast is the hilariously wacky, fraudulent psychiatrist, Eric Sacks (Simon Amstell), who takes great pleasure in mocking and insulting his clients with classic Buzzcocks flair.

With the nourishing full-bodied-ness of a short film, this penetratingly insightful and arty number inserts a tender layer of perspicacity to the viewer’s perspective. A film that will lie imprinted on the mind for years to come.