Paddy O'Connor, Zuleika Lavender Voegele-Downing
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Movie Review: You Okay?
James (Paddy O'Connor) is a young man in his mid-twenties, seemingly ordinary though also rather quiet even when surrounded by people. He has a loving group of friends and a caring partner, Amy (Zuleika Lavender Voegele-Downing). It would seem as if all the ingredients are present for a good life, however, James struggles with anxiety and depression. It's a struggle he appears to have been on for quite some time, though this is never clearly defined for us in writer/director Barrett Loades's thoughtful low-budget indie short You Okay?
It's a simple question. Right? You Okay? Most of us have heard it at some point. Sometimes we've answered it straight up. Other times, we've glossed over the question and answered with a similarly casual response like "I'm fine!" or any number of other responses. James seems to get the question a lot, it would at least partly seem because it's so clear that he is, in fact, not okay. But seriously, how often has the question You Okay? really been a question?
However, the more we're introduced to James over the course of this 15-minute film the more it becomes clear that he's reaching a turning point of some sort. It feels like he wants to open up and needs to open up. He simply can't bring himself to do so even when offered the opportunity time and again. With seemingly always present suicidal thoughts and an anxious mind practically paralyzed by its cyclical patterns, James indulges in substance abuse and other unhealthy patterns because he can't quite get himself toward a healthier road.
You Okay? is one of several mental health-themed indie prrojects I've had cross my desk from the U.K. this year and it's refreshing to see the subject tackled in a thoughtful, intelligent, and de-stigmatizing way. Paddy O'Connor impresses as James, providing what feels like both a cinematic narrative and an internal dialogue throughout the film. Original music by Michael Hurst companions the film quite nicely and lensing by Caleb Pithers-Gregory far transcends what one would usually expect from an ultra-low budget indie project. Quite simply, this is a film of intelligence and wisdom with strong credits both on-screen and behind the camera. Loades tells a meaningful story here and has a straightforward vision that comes vividly to life.
You Okay? is early in its indie fest journey, however, with its effective storytelling and strong ensemble should have no problem finding a home on hte microcinema and indie fest circuit. Here's hoping that a wider audience discovers this indie gem.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic