Entertainment, Review

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2016: Seat in Shadow

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By Zoe Turner

Henry Coombes certainly doesn’t fail to stun his audience with his close ups of characters, sound enhancements on brush strokes, and an ethereal soundtrack with this surrealist art-piece of a film. These effects are all the trimmings on an exploration of the relationship between discovering homosexuality at a young age, and discovering it at an older one.

Albert, an eccentric yet laidback artist and therapist is played by David Sillars, who also co-wrote the film with Coombes. He is approached by his brash Scottish friend, played by Marcella McIntosh, as she seeks help with her “lazy bastard depressed homosexual” grandson, who she says is suffering with boyfriend troubles.

Albert and his friend are strongly developed characters, written both to entertain the audience, but also to portray a sincere concern for the wellbeing of the woman’s grandson, Ben, who is played by the young Jonathan Leslie.

Unfortunately, for a well thought out concept, Leslie’s performance lacks the genuine expression to convey the character written for him by Coombes and Sillars. Talking through his “hopeless” emotions with Albert, both Ben’s voice and facial features remain flat, contradicting his claims with their vacancy. The only obvious sign of any distress he may be experiencing is the single tear he manages to squeeze from his eye socket.

Despite this setback, the visual narrative of Seat in Shadow remains enticing for the viewer. The relationship that develops between Albert and Ben starts with witty therapy performances, as Albert attempts to draw out Ben’s fears, some of which, it is ironically implied, stem from adult men (more specifically, their body hair). While Ben displays an interesting internal monologue, both parts of his mind facing one another, Albert goes to destroy the metaphorical burden, instead cracking a hole through the chair.

At this point, Albert role plays as a protective father figure for Ben, followed by a vivid, palpitating scene of Albert painting Ben’s youthful body, of which he admits he is envious.

As the film’s secrets unfold, however, a series of drug-fuelled, spiritual experiences between the two males lead to dream sequences of giant penises and talking cheese plants, and what is actually a real orgy in Albert’s apartment. These occurrences reveal to the audience, and in fact to Albert himself, that he carries with him the same sexual desire as Ben does, especially for the boy himself.

Overall, this film is a shocking and amusing kind of acid trip, that incorporates male-to-male longing and the gap so often observed between the young and the old; Coombes attempts to bridge this divide, and reveal the basic, shared humanity that seems to be forgotten about behind people’s differences. Although the outcome is slightly rough around the edges, the picture is stimulating, to say the least.

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