Devastatingly brought to life by co-leads Lindsay Duncan and Sophia Myles, writer/director Charlie Manton's Student Academy Award-winning live-action short film November 1st has now been shortlisted for the 2020 BAFTA Awards with its powerful story of the fractured relationship between a mother and daughter that reaches its breaking point as the two travel across state to witness a long-overdue execution.
Duncan and Myles, both British actresses, for the most part, pull off the Southern U.S. accents required though you'll be hard-pressed to care much once the dramatic tension between the two escalates and we're left with two incredible actresses performing at the top of their games.
DP Molly Manning Walker keeps the action so intimate, we can practically feel the sweat pouring off the actresses as 28 years of unresolved tension, complicated grief, and revenge-fueled rage come to a head in riveting fashion. The murder in question happened way back in the 1980s and left behind a grieving mother (Duncan), whose paralyzing grief has left her medicated and bent on revenge while her daughter (Myles) can only helplessly sit and watch and absorb her mother's seemingly relentless browbeatings and criticisms. Manton's emotionally resonant and insightful dialogue doesn't ignore the varying dynamics that surround legalized homicide, both serving as a companion to the survivors left behind and yet being sensitive to the social and political arguments that question if even closure can ever truly bring closure.
Duncan is simply extraordinary here, her emotional and physical baggage so heavy and so intense that you can't help but wonder how it can all be contained within one human being. She wears this homicide like it's the only thing that's ever happened in her life, her entire being seemingly eaten away by the unresolved grief, rage, and desire to finally see the execution to its end after two other delays.
Myles gives a more nuanced performance, wisely underplaying throughout much of the film yet building toward an emotionally volcanic release that radiates in her every word and action. It feels weird to say that Myles is wonderful here, but she is truly wonderful and you can't help but want to wrap her in your arms and protect her from the past, the present, and her mother.
Theo Boswell's multi-setting production design is top-notch, while original music by Thomas Ross Fitzsimons complements the film's inherent drama perfectly. If there's anything that distracts, and it's a minor distraction, it's a couple of typographical errors in the film's subtitle utilization.
November 1st may be familiar to my hometown Indianapolis fans as the film was a live-action short finalist during the Indy Shorts International Film Festival and has snagged a variety of awards throughout its festival journey.
With the BAFTA nominations due to be announced later this month, it would appear the award-winning ways for November 1st will continue.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic