Short Film - The Out

Jon B watched Harry Brandrick's BAFTA qualified short film The Out ...

Spanning just under 15-minutes, The Out is the third short-film endeavour from Harry Brandrick; a filmmaker intent on exploring domestic issues à la I, Daniel Blake (2016). It’s a simple yarn of an ex-convict, Liam, surviving his day-to-day, mending interpersonal relationships while reconciling with drug addiction.

For me, The Out is decidedly amateur, feeling like a shoestring student film. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; in many ways, it encourages out-of-the-box thinking to navigate limitations. Problem is, The Out falls into the same narrative issues as most productions of its kind; the filmmakers know their way around the tech but struggle with storytelling.

I don’t doubt Brandrick’s earnestness; The Out is grounded enough to feel somewhat personal. His intent is to “question [our] views on why people go to prison and how we, as a society, deal with addiction” – ambitious talk for a production of such brevity. However, Liam’s addiction is rarely explored in depth, and plot beats are predictable and lack nuance. Sometimes it’s nonsensical; why would a friend ransack Liam’s apartment when he already said he’s broke? Why not target someone else? Brandrick insists first-hand experience is a basis for the story, and I suppose nothing is contrived – or a cliché – when it’s happening to you. Even so, it doesn’t sit well and comes across as artificially dramatic.

Editing and continuity could also be better. Most of The Out is shot in the same council-flat locale, but characters will leave to visit places off-screen – such as cinemas or corner shops – and the passage of time isn’t clearly conveyed; not in lighting changes, nor transitions, nor shot variety. It’s a poor coverup of their inability to shoot in said locations. Sure, the sequence of events can be deciphered, but the audience shouldn’t need to do so; the filmmakers should make this seamless.

Nonetheless, the film isn’t without positives. It’s technically competent – despite occasional framing issues – with stellar performances from the cast, credit to Brandrick’s direction. Dialogue and visuals are suitably non-pretentious – the ideal approach for a project like this. Overall, its problems are minimal in this department.

The Out, at its core, feels like a high-graded student project. It ticks the boxes liberal film lecturers love – working-class issues, diversity of cast, societal introspection – yet it lacks narrative and originality, feeling undercooked and reeking of early-twenties cynicism. I’m assuming Brandrick isn’t a student, thus it’s easier to conclude this comes from the heart as opposed to university peer-pressure. It’s not fair to be ruthless to him – sincerity trumps spectacle, after all – and I appreciate his ambition to explore mature themes, but I think he has yet to fundamentally mature as a storyteller. 

Review © Jon B 2022 All rights reserved

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