Joseph’s Reel, written and directed by Michael Lavers, is an accomplished and polished short film. A romantic drama, it tells the story of Joseph (Robert Hardy), an elderly man who, before he dies, is given the chance to relive one day in his life. As he is transported back to the day he proposed to his lifelong love Rose (Ella Road), the now-young Joseph (Oliver Tilney) breaks the rules by attempting to interact with the memory rather than repeating it verbatim. After Joseph makes several attempts to alter the day’s events, the action is stopped, and we return to a dark cinema, where the older Joseph is strictly instructed to “follow the script, just as it was” by a stern projectionist (Alice Lowe) .
The visuals of the film are faultless. Rising star cinematographer Eben Bolter has done a superb job of creating a rich story world; the past feels serene and has the glow of nostalgia about it; its warmth contrasting perfectly with the darkness the older Joseph is surrounded by when the action returns to the present-day cinema scenes. The film itself was very aptly captured on 35mm – a creative choice which perfectly reflects the subject of the film – given Joseph’s memories are replayed to him on celluloid – and visually this would stand up against any high-end television drama series or period feature.
The performances are equally strong - Robert Hardy portrays the older Joseph with depth and sensitivity, nimbly switching from stubborn and passionate to fragile and heartbroken. The moment when he says, "do you have any idea when I saw that face last… smelled that perfume?" is an incredibly poignant depiction of sadness and loss. His younger counterpart, Oliver Tilney, skilfully portrays the spirit and gusto of the younger man which is evident in the older man when he attempts to escape the cinema, crying "Where’s the way out?!" and Alice Lowe plays the projectionist as more than merely an emotionally detached authoritarian. She is clearly sensitive and affected by Joseph’s plight, which adds depth to a character which might otherwise have been merely a foil for the plot.
One area of the storytelling that could perhaps have done with a little extra development was the character of Joseph himself. The actors did a superb job, but from a writing point of view, there wasn’t a great deal of an indication, other than his rebelliousness and spirited defiance - as to what made this man different from any other man who fell in love with a pretty woman and then lost her; of what made the character himself unique and memorable. That is not to say that this wasn’t a delightful film, because it was; but if the short is developed into a feature, it would be good to get more of a sense of the nuances of Joseph's character and who he became after he lost Rose; as well as what made her particularly special and why he fell in love with her, other than her sunny disposition and good looks.
It is easy to see how this short might be developed into a beguiling feature film; it is visually stunning and a delightful story idea. Michael Lavers is clearly a talent to watch and the fact that film’s screenings include Oscar-qualifying festivals such Palm Springs and Cork Film Festival is testament to that.
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Written & Directed by: Michael Lavers
STARRING: Robert Hardy, Oliver Tilney, Alice Lowe, Ella Road