Sound and Colour (Short Film) ★★★★★ Belfast International Film Festival

Sound and Colour (Short Film) ★★★★★ Belfast International Film Festival

Filmmaker Emma Foley barely gives her audience a second to breathe in the outstanding Sound and ColourAlison Oliver shines as the future star that she is in this powerfully painful short film.

Hannah (Alison Oliver) returns home to face her dysfunctional and emotionally repressed family after her attempted suicide, only to find her family avoiding any mention of the incident.

As you keep watching Sound and Colour, mouth agape as ever a mouth can be at how Hannah’s family acts, it almost hits you like a wall of hot air, catching your breath in the sharpest of ways as to how regressed and emotionally unprepared they are to handle what their family member has gone through. If you have ever been in a situation where your entire family is fussing over you to an unbearable level, then, Emma Foley’s short film will force the most unpleasant feelings.

While anyone who has been around a family a bit repressed in showing their emotions, Sound and Colour is at times, so quintessentially Irish that it hurts you to feel so seen as a people. You will feel a familiar itch come over your body, and your back will straighten from being so tense that by the time the end of the 14-minute film, you will be emotionally drained.

Emma Foley has you practically gasping for air, thanks to Colm Hogan’s claustrophobic and intrusive cinematography. Foley wants us to feel overwhelmed in that house, to want to escape. With the family members that Hannah has, it is not a place that will provide the peace that she needs to properly heal and get the help she needs. Alison Oliver amplifies that need for distance as her head is turned in every which manner from her well-meaning but clueless family.

Even though there are some quite comedic moments littered through Foley’s script, even in the more exaggerated moments, little prepares you for when the tone shifts. The infamous ‘we’ll talk about it later’ line hits you like the hardest of gut punches. We all know what it means, ‘forget about it, move on’. The repression within some families to not talk about their feelings, to hoard and push down those thoughts, is so painfully approached here. Like Hannah, you feel you can’t breathe with how enclosed her family acts.

Everyone around her has their theories and is so repressed within themselves that they have just decided individually that they know the reason for Hannah’s suicide attempt. They think they are doing their best, but as with all traumas, which they are going through as well, it has to be said that unless they talk about it with each other and a professional, then they will also just be stuck in a horrible void of existence. So, they all try to ignore what Hannah tried to do and just offer solutions immediately upon her return, leaving her barely a moment to breathe.

Alison Oliver breaks your heart as the overwhelmed and oft-overlooked Hannah in Sound and Colour. There is a constant desperation in her performance, be it Hannah wanting just a bit of time to herself or wanting to be heard. From the second poor Hannah is in the door of her house, she is hounded; you feel and see it as clear as day.

As said, her performance has you struggling to catch your own breath until she makes it outside. As much as that has to do with the great work from Foley and her team, it is Oliver who commands the screen and greatly pains you, nailing her powerhouse of a performance from beginning to end. She is an actor who we need to see a lot more of in the future.

In a film full of moments where Hannah is dialogue-free but still compelling, it is when we get that final shot of Hannah that you honestly feel a rush of chills go up your spine. As her family members natter away, clearly thinking the situation has been resolved, she stares off into the void with a mixture of emotions and thoughts running through her mind. Foley has us in this moment and, for those brief seconds, allows us to place ourselves in Hannah’s seat, numb and aware.

Sound and Colour is a fantastic short that pushes you emotionally; it wants you to be in Hannah’s shoes. Importantly, however, it shows depression in the most authentic light possible. Everyone around Hannah thinks they have the reason for her attempted suicide nailed down, but no one is willing to ask her in case what they suspect is the reason isn’t. When she breaks and forces her family to finally listen to her, it is powerful and honest.

Sometimes, your brain leads you down that path, and it is unexplainable. That is what depression can do to a person. Emma Foley never lets us forget that – a truly exceptional film.


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