Two women try to make sense of their futures in the aftermath of the violent abuse they suffered at the hands of the same man. This is Matthew R. Ford’s drama Left Behind.
Before we get into the bones of our review, let us first share some important and sobering statistics with you. Domestic abuse affects 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men and, although it accounts for 16% of all violent crimes, it remains the violent crime least likely to be reported to police at all. It is a crime that has more repeat victims than any other, and it is the single most quoted reason for becoming homeless, and the cause for approximately 400 people to commit suicide each year. On top of all this, while domestic abuse leads to the murder of 30 men each year, it is responsible for the murder of two women every single week. Over 12 months that’s around 104 people, meaning women are 3 ½ times more likely to be murdered due to domestic abuse than men, and that is horrendous.
Writer-director Matthew R Ford I’m sure knows all the stats and gives us a low-key-yet-powerful short film that makes its points with devastating effect. Opening with a haunting version of the Tracey Chapman song Behind The Wall, we are placed in the living room of actor Savannah Gallo’s Kat – a girl who has been receiving so much abuse that her home is in a similar state to her mind. The room is messy, untidy, and cluttered, while all the photographs have either been turned upside down or broken into pieces. Also here is the fresh-faced, immaculately dressed, and made-up Melissa (played by West End performer Grace Farrell) who also beautifully sings the Tracy Chapman cover aforementioned earlier.
Left Behind is a two-handed chamber piece where two fine actors spend the 26 minutes run time in a mental and verbal tug of war. Gallo has the more passive role in the piece and spends her time divulging to both us and Melissa what she has gone through and what her partner is guilty of doing to her. She is a sad, shell of a person, racked with guilt, shame, and sorrow. All of this Gallo manages to convey brilliantly to the audience. Farrell has a bit more freedom with Melissa for reasons that are revealed later in the film; she is allowed to get much angrier and more aggressive at her seemingly helpless co-star, but both are able to explode during certain points. Despite their obvious similarities, it’s these contrasts between the two characters that give the film its power.
Left Behind was filmed in one day at the end of 2021, and as such, it does have some limitations due to the short’s one-room location; we get very few camera angles and most are very similar. We either see a close-up of whoever is speaking, or a wider shot of whoever is speaking. To give him due credit though, Ford, along with his cinematographer Daniel Alexander, does try to mix things up a bit. He makes quick cuts between the actors for reactions during some of the longer speeches, as well as cutting to objects in the house at different times to help with the pace of the film. Also, while each woman reminisces or reflects on something to do with their past, he projects their memories onto the white blinds in the room and this effect works quite nicely. Also, look out for the very moving make-up work as Melissa’s hard exterior begins to deteriorate. Kai Engel’s score is used sparsely, but when it comes in it heightens the mood and allows the audience to feel the emotion of the situation.
Left Behind is a fine film with a hugely important message that, thanks to two powerhouse female leads, stays with you long after the credits roll.