After breaking down on an important journey, a brother and sister confront some dark truths in director and writer Jack McLoughlin’s short film Are You Okay?
A couple of weeks ago, filmmaker Jack McLoughlin sent us his debut feature film Kate and Jake and it garnered a very positive review from us. Are You Okay? is a 7-minute two-hander that doesn’t have the scope or reach of Kate & Jake but is an interesting and exciting experiment. The short film stars Sarah Louise Chadwick, who played Kate in the earlier feature, and Shaun Fagan, who played the role of Adam in that very same film. This time they both play off each other as a brother and sister facing up to some dark truths.
Mcloughlin has been working in film and TV for a long time in different capacities, managing to garner work on some of TV’s biggest shows. He is part of the same Merseyside creative stable that includes the recently BAFTA-nominated director Philip Barantini, and writer of The Responder Tony Schumacher, both of whom are honing in on a renewed interest in Liverpool and Merseyside as a base for gritty and realistic stories. The last review we published here on Screen Critix was a 5-star review of the film Baby Brother another Liverpool set drama, while one of the best films of the year was A Light Through Coloured Glass – another socially conscious movie filmed in Merseyside. There is certainly a buzz around Liverpool at the moment and who knows? maybe even Brookside will be coming back to us soon as well.
Are You Okay? is a fine addition to everything that is going on at the moment; it doesn’t reinvent the wheel or deliver anything that could be considered original but it does give us two solid central performances, some laughs, some tears, and at 7 minutes long it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome. Opening with an external shot of Sarah Louise Chadwick’s Leanne on the phone with the breakdown company, we learn that she and her brother Carl have broken down whilst on the way to some clinic. It is never stated what type of clinic they are going to but what is made clear is that Carl has some issues that leave Leanne feeling very worried about him. Whether they are traveling to the establishment because of addiction or mental health problems is left open for the audience to decide for themselves.
Apart from some shots of Leanne on the phone and sitting on a bench, the majority of the film takes place in a car, with the camera set in a two-shot and staying almost always static. Cameron Brown’s cinematography is simple and unobtrusive with occasional pans and tilts, but it does cut from side to side a bit like a tennis match. These shot choices and movements help to create a sense of claustrophobia and isolation, which perfectly reflects both Leanne and Carl’s emotional state. The way McLoughlin uses his camera makes the car seem like its own small and self-contained universe.
Are You Okay? is not a flashy or attention-grabbing short film, but it is an effective one, successfully drawing the viewer into the sibling’s emotional journey and leaving us with questions, decisions, and answers all of our own.