The coming-of-age film continues to be a popular and respected genre explored by young and indie filmmakers alike. However, it’s rare to find one with the focus and depth captured in a short film format. ‘Promenade’ opens us up to a modern sort of nostalgia with familiar characters, fresh, creative directing, not often found in a project of this scale, and stunning visual aesthetics, also quite uncommon.
The story orbits a group of friends as they party away their last days together before moving to different cities for university; one character, Jonty, has decided to not go to university. The opening of the film gives us a window into Jonty’s free spiritedness aided by gorgeous, vibrant cinematography by Eliott Poyzer and a synthy, mystical score from Harry Evans.
A glimpse into the world of Jonty and his friends is enhanced by the lively set and art design that is nicely pulled back enough to not give us that overdressed “student” feel that so many short films suffer from. It’s refreshing to look at clean frames with just enough there to let us know who these people are instead of being thrust into claustrophobic worlds saturated with too much personality. So many good and conscious decisions were made to elevate this film so that it stands solidly on its own legs.
The film weaves us through slice-of-life moments of these friends as they play football, party and get up to certain recreational activities. Astoundingly, these slice-of-life moments are captured in a totally natural way, as a viewer we are the objective other character in the scenes. Oliver Ward has managed to direct an ensemble of actors in a completely naturalistic approach lending itself to the slice-of-life feel. This isn’t usually achieved by young or indie filmmakers; likening his directing style to that of the Safdie brothers in ‘Uncut Gems’, we hear conversations flow naturally and deliver us the concepts of friendship this group of people have and hold without having the robotic dialogue mould of one character speak, next character speak, next character etc. Ward delivers us performances that can only be maintained by great chemistry between both cast and crew, while still pushing the narrative along.
The main conflict of the film appears to be when Jonty is revealed to not be going to university like his peers. However, he seems to be devoid of any sort of regret in his decision and is confident in it. Although we never reach a resolution in his story, I don’t believe we needed to. The film itself is a modern allegory about the journey to becoming an adolescent, there isn’t a right or wrong path, nor is there a point. It’s about what makes us human: our sociality, our choices and our free will.
You can watch Oliver Wards ‘Promenade’ here: Promenade on Vimeo
Reviewed by Poppy Carter.
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