It is palpably evident that writer-director Harry Brandrick’s short drama The Out (BAFTA Qualifying) represents a deeply personal project for the filmmaker. Dealing with drug addiction and recovery, he seems to exorcize his own demons – Brandrick’s father struggled with addiction – and such poignancy makes it stand out from the crowd.
The film follows Liam (Allan Mustafa), a recently-released-from-prison recovering heroin addict. He’s in a nearly bare apartment, shackled with an ankle bracelet, restless, guzzling liquid opiates to suppress his desires. There’s another reason for his anxiety: he’s about to reconnect with his daughter, Sofia (Savannah Skinner-Henry), whom he hasn’t seen since getting clean. “Please don’t fuck this up” his ex-wife, Jade (Kimberley Okoye), tells him before leaving.
Sofia just wants to watch YouTube, yet he doesn’t have an internet connection. She questions his love of football. He finally gets her to come outside. Upon their return, the tweaked-out Marcus (Jamie Christofersen), a fragment of Liam’s past, greets them by the door. After an unpleasant confrontation, Liam takes Sofia back out to the movies. What happens next is perhaps best left unsaid.
Brandrick touches upon hefty themes of unjust incarceration, the backwards ways society deals with addiction, and the importance of human compassion. Mustafa impresses as the wounded Liam, desperate to do the right thing. His charisma ignites the screen. The filmmaker gets the tiny details right, like the way Marcus sits next to Sofia – a man deep in the throes of addiction next to an innocent cherub – or the way he keeps the action within the claustrophobic confines of Liam’s apartment.
What better way to get over your past than to confront it directly? That’s exactly what Brandrick does here. Hopefully, the project has helped him deal with his trauma. It certainly has the potential to help viewers deal with theirs.