Director: Tim Porter
Cast: Kadeem Boyce, Miranda Magee
Plot: Haven offers a brief glimpse into an uneasy relationship between a paralysed mother (Magee) and her emotional son (Boyce).
There is definitely an honest beauty about Haven. It is an artistic short from South East London director Tim Porter, a man who is carving a reputation for making short films that cut through the awkwardness surrounding certain projects and open up a debate about the hard-hitting themes he wishes to discuss. Haven is less a story – in the conventional sense at any rate – and more a snapshot of the lives of two individuals. Haven drifts dreamily between scenes, building up a shocking, mesmerising picture.
Shot stunningly on a Sony FS7, the cinematography is the first thing that leaps out at you. Seeing as Porter’s strength with Haven is the visuals (dialogue is used mainly to create a cacophony of sound rather than progress the story), the cinematographer slaves away at creating the best possible set of shots to entice the viewer with. As the piece drifts serenely along, jumping in and out of various scenes, each frame that welcomes the audience back to a certain point in the short’s timeline is pleasing to settle back into. Steam coming off a frying pan, the deceptive beauty of a beach… it seems simple, yet they are all cleverly crafted tools for Tim Porter to create his vision with. As the camera settles on the actors’ faces, it picks up every minute detail the performers get across. Boyce and Magee are wonderful to watch, really making the most out of the little time they are given to get the right emotions across. While the source of their grief is, for the most part, lost on the audience (Magee’s mother is bound to a wheelchair, a fact her son seems unable to process), we feel their pain. The weary mask that Miranda Magee’s character forces herself to wear to hide the pain of their fractured relationship. She has a look of steel, but the eyes show the exhaustion of keeping her guard up. Boyce’s character isn’t too good at hiding his pain. The character seems incapable of holding onto an emotion or finding a middle ground for his moods. Some frames, again shot gorgeously, see him grinning from ear to ear, lost in a happy moment, while others see him realising the misery of his situation. He is trapped in his own mind, perhaps just as paralysed as his mother in certain aspects. This gives actor Kadeem Boyce a wider pool of emotions to play with than Magee and he does his all to make the character hit home. As Porter teases us with certain scenes, playfully cutting away before we get a sense of the bigger picture, it is Boyce’s expressions that we carry onto the next moment. There is something about his pain and frustration that pierces through the short and captivates the viewer.
Some context would have been appreciated nonetheless. Haven is based on a single scene from a play also directed by Tim Porter, Dream Cease Repeat. It is an embellishment of those two characters (Miranda Magee plays the mother in both enactments of the story). It is essentially a chance for the character arc to be expressed outside of the stage and onto film. Sadly, none of this is made clear if you haven’t seen the play. Newcomers to the story are stumbling into the unknown and while Haven still has a lot of promise in terms of visuals and sheer emotion, narrative wise, we are left adrift. Perhaps this is an example of Tim Porter removing the distractions of plot and allowing the characters and themes to stand on their own two feet, unburdened with the weight of exposition. It must be said it works well with the scope allowed, hitting all the right emotional notes and impressing us with the camerawork and performances. However, without an explanation for what we are seeing or feeling, it is only as good as the moment it is in. So yes, Haven is definitely worth a watch, a short showing off endless amounts of talent (from the cinematography, performances and smooth edit), but for those wanting something more tangible, it is likely to frustrate.
Final Verdict: A mesmerizingly beautiful snapshot of two tormented lives. Brilliant performances and keen direction.
Haven is being screened across London from the 20th Jan to the 28th.