GFF 2013: Shell
In an emotionally frozen recess of the Highlands lives a father and daughter alongside the gaping void left by her mother. The child is named Shell and, like flowers growing towards the sun, lonely visitors are drawn to the rare vitality she exudes. Her sparkling smile and harpy's song tempt even her father toward the rocks.
Scott Graham’s excellent debut feature is a triumph, a film which troubles the mind for days after viewing. This is a work defined more by its gaps than by what exists on screen, as characters expand unhealthily into the vacuums that surround them, replicating the roles absent from their lives. Although stunningly filmed, it shows nature as a redundant beauty, providing walls in which these pawns are enclosed. It is an intelligent and sympathetic study of loneliness and loss, the disparity between rural and urban environments, the harsh simplicity of a struggle against the elements where emotional warmth is secondary to pure survival. Chloe Pirrie’s complex central performance surely guarantees that we'll hear of her for years to come. [Alan Bett]