Penance is an impressive student short with promising potential

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By Siavash Minoukadeh, Entertainment Sub-Editor

The University of Bristol is home to a budding student filmmaking community. InFilm society Events Manager Louis Fleury's independently produced short Penance (2019) is an example of the quality of work emerging from our student body.

Third year Film and Television student Fleury’s Penance may be short, clocking in at just over ten minutes, but it certainly packs a punch. Though it tackles the topics of religion, morals and integrity, Fleury’s script handles them deftly. Following the time-tested mantra of ‘show not tell’ the film does not let itself get bogged down in dialogue too often and instead lets the cinematography and score create the tension.

Penance marks a strong foray by this student-led team into short film

Despite being filmed in Bristol, the plot of Penance would appear to be set in Ireland with Steve O’Halloran playing a village priest. Sat writing his sermon in the pub, he is visited by a mysterious stranger (Leo Graham) with a request. Both performances are strong, with the characters and their intentions gradually unfolding over the course of the film, never giving too much away.

Ollie Uglow's cinematography shines | Epigram / Louis Fleury

The plot reminded me of Jez Butterworth’s play The Ferryman (2017), which followed a similar narrative with both revolving around an Irishman being coerced into complying with gang bosses - it isn’t clear if Graham’s character has any political motivations - to cover up disappearances.

Though Penance tackles the topics of religion, morals and integrity, Fleury’s script handles them deftly

The storytelling is well crafted with the director of photography Ollie Uglow’s cinematography really drawing the eye to the two men’s world-weary faces by setting them against a soft backdrop. With the camera cutting between each face, we do not see the two men face-to-face until towards the very end. So, while the rich, luscious colouring may originally give us a sense of warmth, the tension is very cleverly built up to culminate in the ambiguous ending.

A special mention must also go to David Dudeny’s score: simple yet effective, it begins to be audible halfway through the film and gradually builds up, its insistence matching the rising drama.

All in all, Penance marks a strong foray by this student-led team into short film. With a strong plot and an arc that develops throughout the ten minutes, it is definitely a promising sign of what is to come from these filmmakers.

As part of the University of Bristol, Epigram Film & TV are committed to covering student filmmakers and their work. Send any submissions for review over to filmtv.epigram@gmail.com.

Featured: Epigram / Louis Fleury


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AUTHOR

Siavash Minoukadeh

Entertainment subeditor 2019-20 | 2nd year Liberal Arts | Overcaffeinated