Sometimes, a bad day is just a bad day. But a really bad day can on occasion turn into something far more sinister. Ruth, the lonely centrepiece of Lisa Clarke’s Heard, is having a bad day, so desperate is she to find an ounce of meaningful human (or animal) connection. But this is not the loneliness of being lost in space or stranded on an island, it is a genuine, inward emptiness suffered by millions of people around the world – the loneliness that drives a person to press their palm against kettle steam, just to feel something.
The twelve minute short gets you thinking before it even begins – its title is a reference to the noticeable lack of dialogue present in Richard Zajdlic’s script – Ruth is most certainly seen, but not heard. Thankfully, some extremely attentive sound, editing and camerawork builds tension in a way that few dialogue-laden scripts could, turning something as humdrum as a daily routine into something that oozes equal parts tragedy and dark comedy. Loud bursts of diegetic sound and Edgar Wright-esque quick cuts articulate Ruth’s white knuckle anguish, while gorgeous wide angle shots and clever costume designs single her out as the proverbial sore thumb.
None of this filmmaking wizardry would matter, were it not for a wonderfully understated performance from Sherlock’s Louise Brealey, who manages to evoke a wide spectrum of emotions purely through nuanced body language and facial tics. A film so intensely focused on a single character is nothing without a strong lead, and Brealey does not disappoint.
Heard succinctly demonstrates what a short film can accomplish, that perhaps a feature length cannot: it can jostle humour, aggression, and sadness within just over ten minutes, and nail each one without so much as a single word spoken. What was an extraordinary day in the life of Ruth proves an exceptional addition to ASFF’s ‘Drama’ line-up.