Meeting In The Aisle (Siddhesh Ambure and Aravind Nair, 2018) – Review

Any film that chooses to open with a shot directly pointing out a clear influence is bound to be interesting, however, I have to say that even I was surprised by the level of density coming from Meeting In The Aisle, a short film written and directed by Siddhesh Ambure and Aravind Nair. Whilst the opening may seem a little on the nose, as Radiohead’s How to Disappear Completely plays, and the visuals clearly pointing out the Radiohead reference in a very literal and explicit fashion, the subtlety to what follows in contrast to this opening is what really struck me. 

Following on from this opening with a frankly gorgeous shot from a plane window, with what I assume to be some kind of colour filter over the camera (or added in post, of course), with these enhanced, vibrant blues that scream out for the attention of the audience. With How To Disappear Completely still playing, the emotional guidance becomes clear, and as soon as our star, writer/director Aravind Nair, appears, there is this feeling of distance already there, despite the fact that the opening scene with him lets us in on various intimacies. We see him wander around, eating, watching TV, etc, and yet there is this ever growing distance between him and the viewer, whether that comes from the lack of dialogue on his part or the odd camera positioning, with a lens that seems to make the closest of objects seem so uncomfortably far away. This feeling is created so effortlessly, thanks to the music and the camera itself, but also by Nair’s performance, he seems very relaxed about being in front of the camera, and this relaxed character is clearly keeping a lot to himself at the same time, generating this eerie discomfort and this need to find out more. As aforementioned, the film is guided beautifully by the music choices too, not only is the soundtrack a delight, but the sound design outside of it is very expressive – the use of sound is surprisingly good, especially for an amateur film – I’ve seen features use sound in far less inspired ways. Here, the music and clattering sound design is used beautifully to inform the mood, the audience’s feelings towards events and the characters, and it evokes the right feelings constantly in such a satisfying manner. 

The scene that follows is set at the beach, and Nair wanders around it quite aimlessly. These beautiful tracking shots just drift alongside him, bringing to mind the likes of Lubezski with the gentle tracking (with sole focus on character), the slightly fish-eyed lens and the vibrant yellow colouring that drowns out almost everything else. The same feeling is here as the scene that came before, this distance and alienation brought forward by both the craft and the performance, creating this overwhelming feeling of distance for the audience that is also felt by the character, clearly. This beach scene may just be my favourite from the film, with beautiful cinematography and fascinating, sharp editing that really creates this peaceful but also oh-so slightly on edge feeling. The editing across the entire film is incredibly impressive, often seeming to catch the moment perfectly before moving forward, and many jump-cuts that are to die for, along with one brief moment of montage that was a wonderful surprise. Due to the very straight forward narrative of the film, it is crucial that the editing keeps the pace together, and it does a great job here. 

The real standout scene is the letter reading sequence. It immediately struck me as a reference to a film I never really thought I’d see being referred to – Michael Robinson’s wonderful 2006 short film The General Returns From One Place To Another, with the use of subtitles as the voice somebody we never actually see or hear at all, allowing them to really become their own entity on screen, and as much as I did start to wonder where it was really going at times, just as I did, it would always surprise with the beauty of what wasting discussed, especially when it describes the troubles in a relationship or friendship as a struggle of mutuality, drawing the comparison of their over-similarity to two magnets, drawn to each other to a certain extent, getting ‘as close (together) as they can’ be but never quite there, as their mutuality makes them act as the same ends of the magnet, pushing each other away just that final bit. 

I’m also very impressed by the ability of the directors to work well with both colour and black and white. Going from black and white to this overwhelmingly colourful setting should be jarring, and yet it flows beautifully in the context of the film itself. It looks fantastic, from start to finish, and never feels too jarring without the intention to. It isn’t a perfect film, it relies a little too much on its influences towards the second half for my liking, however, the way that the directors wear these influences on their sleeves so affectionately is also charming to a certain extent, it just becomes a bit much when two entire scenes are added in, as much as they do help to inform the characters and his decisions by the end. However, when your influences are that of Radiohead and Charlie Kaufman, it could definitely be worse, and as mentioned before, the way that these influences are used to guide the character himself is interesting, using these other works to inform their own narrative and branch off of them, using art to create art in this fun way that many would never try to. This one negative isn’t to say that the film isn’t worth your time though, not at all. The gorgeous cinematography, surprisingly naturalistic and involved performance, the brilliant soundtrack and sound design, and, most importantly, the way that all of these come together to consistently inform this abstract, largely implied narrative is just a wonder to watch as an exercise in creating a story without ever spelling anything out to the audience. Not a word is spoken here, and yet it’s still a beautiful film from start to finish, one so clearly created by two directors who want nothing more than to express themselves through film as a form. 

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