During the first UK lockdown of 2020 all the actors and entertainers, often esteemed so highly as celebrities, were suddenly sent home to sit on their sofas like so many of us. It was a reality check that these famous faces weren’t vital to the running of our society – they weren’t key workers. Yet, at the same time their previous work on streaming services kept many of us sane through those long days
In this film, one of the first to be shot after the pandemic, there is again a sense of the importance of art in capturing the emotion of a chaotic time. Goldfinch CEO, Kirsty Bell came up with the idea for the film during the first week of lockdown. It was later written by Elizabeth Morris and Dominic Wells, but Bell has kept a close involvement, making her directional debut with the picture, in which she also plays a film director, Naomi, and finds a way of weaving in her original title for the movie, ‘Alone’.
The film starts in March 2020 when, following the announcement of a national UK lockdown, filming is quickly brought to a halt. We watch cast and crew as they wind up the set before heading off in different directions to the places they call home.
Shot in black and white, as if all colour is drained from life, and in a cinema verité style, watching it feels slow and sometimes strained in the early scenes. There is also a sense of indulgence as huge egos clash with uncertainty in their sprawling houses and luxurious surroundings. But stick with it, because as the characters moves further from the film set, the personal focus creates a space to reflect a wider experience.
The story is told in a series of vignettes, following the lives of 12 characters at two-week intervals during the three-month lockdown between March and June, with location shots in London and Marseille. These snap-shots show us joy and beauty as well as fear, heartache and despair, with enough space around the characters for the audience to transpose their own emotions.
These inter-linked narratives are made all the more powerful by the naturalistic performances from a recognisable cast, including Derek Jacobi, Frances Barber, and Sadie Frost. Morgana Robinson is particularly outstanding in portraying the raw grief of an editor who loses her mother to Covid during the cruel isolation rules. And I say this as a warning to people who have lost loved ones at this time, rather than a spoiler.
As the lockdown comes to an end we hear news reports commenting: “Our lives will never be the same”, but outside of the world of the film we are a year on and, although not yet post pandemic, life is opening-up, streets are bustling again and it’s not clear how much has really changed.
The film has been nominated for Best UK Feature at the Raindance Film Festival. It feels like it has certainly captured a moment, but that moment feels too raw and too close to appreciate it now.