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Those of you who have been following the website for a couple of years may remember that one of the first reviews I did was of Cam Wade’s THE MUSICIAN (2019), (review here: https://reecebeckettreviews.wordpress.com/2019/06/28/the-musician-cameron-wade-2019-review/) That was Wade’s most recent project, with him then taking some time away to focus in on other things – including starting a film related podcast and gathering inspirations. His other films were all impressive, particularly FATHER, a film that actually still comes to mind for me quite often, mainly for the main performance by Cam Wade himself. I was always impressed primarily by his willingness to experiment, even within his very first project, with many nods to David Lynch and surrealism in general. Wade does especially well because he matches this experimentalist approach with a story at the core which still carries the viewer by itself, making the films accessible and allowing those experimental flares to add some edge and mystery to the film, elevating it.
In the case of his newest film, Solitude, Cam Wade makes it clear that his hiatus was good for him, returning with all guns blazing. The film is, quite simply, about two girls (played by Emmie and Ryleigh Caple) who wake up to find that their mother has gone missing and, upon looking for her, eventually come to discover that nobody can be found anywhere.
First and foremost, I want to quickly touch on how good of an idea I think this is given COVID and making use of it. The majority of the films on COVID (this film isn’t explicitly about the pandemic) absolutely crumble in one way or another, but this one uses just the loneliness of the outside world in lockdown to become seriously unnerving as the two girls wander these streets searching for any kind of life. I genuinely haven’t seen another film use the pandemic in a way like this yet – and it’s rare to see a film actually go over entirely new ground, so that was certainly welcome. (I’m resisting talking about Tenet for another thousand words here!) It’s a little funny to me that very recently I saw Sarah Gavron’s film Rocks, about a teenage girl who has to try to navigate life looking after her little brother and trying to find the money to survive after her mother leaves suddenly – Gavron views this problem through a similar lens to De Sica did the missing/stolen bike in Bicycle Thieves, whilst Cam Wade views this loneliness as something seriously eerie and Lynchian.
Whilst in the midst of the usual namedropping, I have to mention Brady Corbet. I also recently saw his short film Protect Me + You, and the cinematography in that film and this one are quite strikingly similar in style – the human characters are the focus, but there is something in the way that they are framed sometimes that almost suggests that they’re unimportant to the camera, that the camera is more interested in other things – there is one shot in here of the rain falling onto stones, and the camera seems quite happy to sit and watch that for a week – the girls become almost incidental for a moment, the camera pre-occupied. The camera also seems to drift away at the sight of the empty streets, with flashing lights flickering to the left and to the right of the frame (surely not intentional, but it made for a harrowing effect nonetheless). The constant movement of the camera really serves to give the film a strong sense of style, one that isn’t seen too much in short films as they don’t usually have time to fully develop, but Wade’s camera rarely stops moving throughout the film, and so this movement becomes a staple of the momentum that it builds. Running back to the Corbet short, there is a shot when Daniel London’s character follows another man shouting at him repetitively through the streets, with the sound design reminding us that he really is in a real world as opposed to one of his own design, and yet here the sound design says the opposite – that the audience and the two girls should be constantly weary about their surroundings, which growl and distort frequently.
The cinematography also makes use of zooms (and any long time reader will remember the affinity I have for those!) frequently, lending even more to that feeling of constant movement that makes everything all the more uncomfortable. The digital cinematography also won me over (as it always does!), especially with the moments that use black and white as I’m a sucker for changing colours too, especially when the sound design makes it feel as if that change in colour is from a shift in perspective – a droning straight from your favourite noise-band accompanies the eerie black and white opening, and the camera is much more static from this perspective, but the change into colour suddenly gives the camera life and dismisses the drone from before.
The two main performances, by Emma and Ryleigh Caple as I mentioned earlier, are also shockingly convincing child performances, able to channel both the horror and the joy of finding themselves in a world completely devoid of authority. The moments of freedom and sweetness interjected throughout the short are brilliant as, not only are they realistic and something that many filmmakers would easily have skimmed over, but also they make the lonely creepiness all the more intense when they come up later. I did think initially that the child POV was one of necessity from actor availability, but the way that the child performers are used is really great.
So, to summarise, Cam Wade is finally back to making films, and it would appear that taking a break has only made his craft stronger, as I really struggle to find fault in here – maybe a couple of the edits could use tightening. This has seriously promising style plastered throughout, and is so different to The Musician and Father that I get the feeling that I’ll probably never to be able to fully predict where one of Wade’s films are going, which is a position I like to be in very much!