Drama, 20 minutes
Directed by Darshan Patel
Starring James Parsons, Chiara Grioni, Sojourner Dawson and Delyth Jones
Editor's Note: Since this review was written, Grey has been chosen as an official selection for the 2012 Edinburgh Short Film Festival. Congratulations to Darshan Patel.
Grey is a sort film by Darshan Patel which runs for just under 20 minutes. For that reason, I'm not going to worry about spoilers. If you want to see the film before reading my review, you can do so here.
Depression is the kind of disease that often gets ignored because you can't always see its effects just by glancing at someone. Grey examines some of those effects and tries to place you in the position of a man who has to deal with his wife's depression.
The man is Raphael (Parsons) and we see his struggle. He takes his wife (Grioni) meals which are ignored. All she wants to do is stay in bed in a darkened room. He works as a car mechanic to support her. Unfortunately, he's deeply affected by her condition. We see him considering other sexual partners on the Internet and sleeping on the couch.
His wife gets up at 3pm and looks thoroughly miserable. She briefly considers herself in the bedroom mirror. Does she hate her body? Does she think that she's ugly, or has her body changed in some way that she doesn't like? That's revealed later. She covers the TV screen with a blanket so that she doesn't have to see her own reflection and briefly considers slitting her wrists.
Raphael is doing the best he can. He works to support her and satisfies himself in the shower because she is in no mood for sex. He goes running in an attempt to ease his frustration and even prays in a church because he doesn't know what else to do.
But his resolve eventually breaks and he visits a bar in search of potential sexual partners. That leads to an encounter with a woman (Dawson) who offers him sex, but he decides against the idea. Instead, she offers him advice and gives him a crucifix.
We are eventually given a glimpse of an event in Raphael's life which presumably led to his wife's current state. A black and white flashback shows him and his wife in their car. She's pregnant and he's stroking her swollen belly. His lack of concentration causes a car accident. Did the couple lose their child? That explains why she doesn't want to see her reflection. It's a constant reminder of her loss. It's here that everything clicks into place and I'm reminded of Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart's struggles in the excellent Rabbit Hole.
The film ends on a positive note when Raphael encounters Eve (Jones), who used to run his wife's art class. She asks how his wife is and talks about her passion for art and her smiles. Raphael mentions the meeting when he gets home and his wife gets out of bed. They go for a walk in the park.
She's taken the first step in her recovery. The relationship has a chance to heal. Obviously, depression is a serious ailment and one small event can't be the entire cure, but the scene does leave the audience with a sense of hope. Perhaps the limitations of the short film format prevent anything more? The film has no beginning or end, it's just a snapshot of a situation. That said, I did feel engaged and caught up in their situation. It created a mood and the infrequent melancholy piano added to the sense of sadness and desperation.
How would you cope in that situation? Would you have the patience to allow time for your wife to heal? What kind of help would you seek? It's easy to understand Raphael's hopelessness and selfish desire to look for happiness elsewhere, but he resisted. Do his actions make him a good man, or is he at fault for considering the alternative.
I was wary of writing this review. I'm not exactly an established film critic, but I certainly don't want to crush someone's dream or attack their work. The problem is, I'm brutally honest. In this case, I can honestly say that I was impressed with the effort and I think the film achieves what it sets out to do. It's quite thought-provoking, especially for an audience that hasn't encountered a clinically depressed person.
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