A sofa surfer seeks a place for the night. As everybody turns him down, he must face the demons of an old addiction. Here is our review of Michele Olivieri’s drama Sofa Surfer.
We fade into a dull and dark British street as Rob, played by Tom Dayton, comes into view on his mobile phone trying to use his contacts in order to find a place to stay for the night. He would be happy to use a couch, a chair, or even the floor; he just wants to be inside and, more importantly, safe. Rob, you see, is a recovering drug addict and, although he is now clean and sober, the persistent itch still remains. He needs a support network around him to help deal with the potential relapses that he faces on a daily basis, but what Sofa Surfer manages to show us in the opening few scenes is that Rob’s support network was never really that strong in the first place, and it collapses just when he needs it the most.
Directed by Michele Olivieri, from an excellent script written by Kim Taylor, Sofa Surfer is actually quite a sad film in a way and, although it only lasts for 12 minutes, we are able to learn all about Rob, his situation, and we are immediately engulfed by the desperation he feels. The short also manages to highlight the problems recovering addicts face when they are trying to integrate back into society.
When all of the calls to his friends run out, Rob decides to contact the one person he has been trying to avoid for months, an acquaintance named Carl, played by the menacing James Campbell-Warner. Carl was one of the reasons Rob became an addict in the first place and he is more than happy to offer Rob shelter for the evening. But as Rob once again enters into Carl’s life, all of his insecurities, problems, and addictions resurface and he has to make another life-changing decision.
In his notes on the film, director Olivieri mentions the many sources of inspiration for his short, including the work of Clouzot, Aronofsky, Wong Kar-Wai, and Kieślowski. While there are moments of influence from those filmmakers visible in Sofa Surfer what I noticed more was a hint of Giallo cinema. Olivieri is from Verona in Italy and his visuals are reminiscent of that famous Italian screen tradition, minus any gloved killer or mystery. This is especially evident in the first half of the film while Rob is wandering the streets. Olivieri’s work here is very stylish, especially the handheld zoom shot on the footbridge and although there is no gore or violence, he uses a lot of creepy visuals with similarities to horror. The dimly lit streets, the shadowy evil figures, the fact we don’t really see anyone else’s face but Rob’s. The surreal montage, close-up imagery, lights, and music used during the moment Rob faces his addiction again are also very Giallo-esque.
Throughout the short, the cinematography from Mikhail Nekrasov remains strong, with Rob’s world consisting of blues and greens, and with the camera remaining constantly on the move. Sophie Marchant’s sound helps add to the atmosphere, as there are persistent noises of vehicles pulling off and driving away to different destinations. As each passing vehicle disappears, we’re left knowing that it’s Rob who is the person lost with no idea of his direction.
A film about temptation and the struggles of recovering addicts, Sofa Surfer is a fascinating character study and well-made film that is certainly worth your time.