Through some top-notch performances and cinematography, Leyla Josephine Coll-O’Reilly’s Groom is a cautionary tale that hits home for those who wanted to fit in when they were teenagers, but found that those older than them were only all too willing to take advantage of them – a great debut film from the writer/director.
School leaver Hannah must navigate a hyper-sexualised beauty salon and a controlling boss in order to turn her life around.
You instantly feel for our lead, Hannah, in Leyla Josephine Coll-O’Reilly’s film Groom. We have been in her shoes, not knowing which direction we are going in life, only to be plunged into a situation where our young shoulders are not at all prepared. Hannah is a girl who is being emotionally and mentally pressured by Skye and the others in the salon. She doesn’t fit with the look of the salon; however, her highly impressionable age causes her to venture down a path she may not think is for her, but she feels the lure is too strong. She wants to be a part of a group, a part of something. So, instead of standing at the sides dawdling along like she thinks she has been doing, she is tempted to join something that will at least not have her feeling so alone anymore.
Leyla Josephine Coll-O’Reilly’s and cinematographer Lorena Pagés have been incredibly creative with the shot choices in Groom. From the shot of Hannah and Skye first talking in the salon, with us only being able to see either of them via the mirrors in the room, to how they look at themselves in mirrors towards the end of the film. This great use of mirrors exemplifies how we see ourselves, and it is not the only smart technique utilised within the film.
Groom is a film that very much pushes the focus on the visual with continual close-ups throughout. Whether that is of gum being chewed, legs being waxed, cuticles being pushed back, or any form of “improving” one’s image is getting forced upon Hannah. This heavy focus works in also makes us, as an audience, feel the pressure that the hoodie and legging wearing Hannah is feeling immediately. She is young and out of place in a world where other young women have the confidence to wear shorter clothing, makeup, and tan. We are given a quick fish-out-of-water tale that accelerates through to a cautionary story about getting taken advantage of.
Skye’s psychological battering of Hannah in those moments the two are together is so striking, compliments laced with pointed venom to continually force Hannah into Skye’s circle. To make her depend on her as a role model to make herself more attractive, lines like “you could be really pretty if you tried” hit us hard. While Hannah sees it as a compliment, we can see what Skye is doing as clear as day. She is moulding someone to have under her control, and it is only when it is too late for Hannah to disagree with an important choice before the young girl is ready to decide for herself what direction she wants to go.
By getting in early, she has done what she needed to with Hannah, and it has you realising just how common moments like this are in so many work and non-work environments in regard to young people. They are highly impressionable at this age, and when someone of apparent power and confidence enters their life, they gravitate towards them. Willing to do whatever they ask for, even the smallest of compliments.
For Hannah, she feels the confidence rise up within her, perhaps for the first time, and feels the need to possibly make up some stories about her sexual past to fit in. It is daunting for her and heartbreaking for us. We have all been there as youngsters, wanting to impress those we think are better or cooler than us. She is in a no-win situation really, and Mollie Milne does terrifically in portraying that.
Groom is, from top to bottom, a great piece of filmmaking; from the performances to the visuals, we are given something that hits a little too close to home. Leyla Josephine Coll-O’Reilly has made a film that you instantly relate to, an outstanding 16-minutes.
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