Christopher Key’s 7-minute Within, for a drama, follows an unconventional narrative style. Instead of meticulously shot flashback scenes, there is camcorder footage. Instead of comprehensive production design, even for the interview format that it uses, the focus is strictly on Michael’s face (and what an expressive one it is). And for the third and final component, dialogue is removed entirely. It is as though the film attempts to remove as much evidence of it being a reproduction of life as possible. And it works.
Neil Hobbs plays Michael. Now an old man, he sits for an interview to talk about his dead daughter, dead as a child. We do not see the interviewer. There is no gratuitous, bland montage to show what a happy child his daughter was. Instead, Michael talks like real people do—halting, ravaged by grief, haunted. Very few adjectives or pretty embellishments. The ‘footage’ the film uses truly feels like it was taken by everyday people on holiday. There are no pretensions of poeticisms to it.
As Michael recounts the events of that final day—a fatal car accident on a busy road—Hobbs delivers an impressively restrained performance. Indeed, as the only on-screen, speaking character (with a camera trained on his face to boot), the role and its performance has the power to make or break the film. But this is not merely the recalling of a painful memory. The interview marks an important, pending decision, revealed in the last moments of the film, and which it builds up to with brief glimpses of Michael facing a young woman (Roisin Bevan). Bevan, despite having no dialogues, leaves her mark. There is an almost unearthly kindness in her portrayal, just as the encounter itself feels not quite real (Fear not, this is no dead daughter’s vision trope).
The way Within experiments with its scaled back approach to create an unglamorous, unpolished vision of grief is unexpectedly impactful. The empathy it invokes pays off with a profound, devastating climax. Silence follows, leaving the viewer to share Michael’s grief, and something that is not exactly bittersweet, but tragically close.
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Within: Painfully Authentic Reflection Of Bereavement