Hangnail (Short) ★★★ 1/2 Belfast Film Festival

Hangnail (Short) ★★★ 1/2 Belfast Film Festival

Grace Connor’s Hangnail is a dream that quickly becomes a nightmare for our young protagonist. It is a strong cautionary tale that shows the daunting task some teenagers have in trying to find their place in society.

Young and impressionable Erin (Mollie Milne) is dying for a peek into the bright and flashy party lifestyle of her older cousin Blair (Freya Rivero). One night, she grabs at her opportunity to be introduced into her cousin’s world.

Hangnail fills you with an unwavering sense of dread the second our two cousins make it to the party; this is not the place for Erin to be, and you know only danger is going to follow her as her night continues and her inhibitions lower and her need to impress her cousin heightens.

Mollie Milne does some great work here as the initially naïve Erin. A girl who wants to impress but has been dropped into an environment she has no clue how to navigate, so she does the worst thing you could. She copies what she sees around her. Thinking that her doubts are the wrong thoughts and emotions to have in this situation, she follows along with everyone else, drinking leftover alcohol wherever she can.

At the beginning of the night in Hangnail, Blair sticks with Erin. Still, inevitably, they separate, leaving Erin to her own devices. You can tell she knows she is almost forcing herself to be there, often alone and in the way of others having a good time; Erin figures the only way to actually enjoy herself is to do as she sees. It is a move that often spells disaster. While there are immediate negative results in what Erin does, writers Niamh West and Shona Russell venture their interest in this being a harsh learning moment for the teenager as by the end of Hangnail, we become painfully aware that this experience is one that Erin will not forget.

Your heart sinks for her as a character; you know this isn’t what she wants. She wants to be as cool as her cousin, and it isn’t until things go very wrong for her that she realises that Blair’s world isn’t as good as she has made it out to be. Although things go wrong, her cousin isn’t going to change; it is, in fact, Erin who has grown as a person from her experience. Whether that is for the positive remains to be seen.

Yet, for as much as Erin’s turmoil breaks your heart, you also feel tremendously for Blair in Hangnail. She is just a young person who got caught up in the world that she is trying to bring Erin in and is simply lost within it. Freya Rivero plays her as a girl who finally has the chance to have a comrade in the place she loves, but is so enraptured with that place that she leaves the person she should be looking after behind. We all know a girl like Blair, the person who you are unsure how to help as you are not sure they want it. Even when things go wrong between the two, she still wants to think to the next party, which as you can imagine is horribly disheartening for Erin.

Shona Russell’s camera ventures off into continuous swaying as if there is a loosening of control. However, these moments are jolted with static shots to show us Erin’s vulnerability; everyone else is moving, dancing and jostling, yet she is fixed, unsure whether to stick or twist more into Blair’s world. It’s smart filmmaking, and with a potent script that we have here, Hangnail becomes that cautionary coming-of-age short film that strikes you.

★★★ 1/2

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