In Too Deep, directed by Academy Award Winner Chris Overton, is an eerie and emotional drama that maneuvers through grief in a unique and devastating way. Produced by Slick Films, and showing as part of the HollyShorts Film Festival, the film follows Carol (Rachel Shenton) and Ben (Stephen Wight), both mourning the death of their young daughter Jess (Madeleine Mckenna). As we are introduced to them, they are vacant and teary-eyed. We witness their past family life through fragments of home video footage. As Ben sits, the glare of the television illuminating his face and exposing his sadness, he mines memories as his loss deepens. The film is startling in its depiction of trauma and the potential for technology to help and hinder the processing of this.
In Too Deep is driven by an exceptional combination of score and visuals, along with superb lead performances that sell the emotion of the film. The film adeptly creates visceral sequences almost approaching feelings of horror, lurching the viewer towards something unknown and unnerving, masterfully circumambulating the events of the past. The score, made up primarily of strings and piano, cuts through you and heightens the feeling of the film. The film uses motifs and songs that add to the soundscape at different points, forming a three-dimensional world that feels real and authentic. The film explores connection to loved ones through dreams, in thoughts, and in images. The film ruminates on the difference between real memories and manufactured memories, moments we cherish and moments we wished for but never lived.
Shenton, as Carol, and Wight, as Ben, are both sensational in their roles. Their performances are understated, dazed from past events, but commanding in their looks and facial expressions. It is impossible to ignore the wellspring of emotions under their subtle exteriors. Wight, in particular, plays grief, guilt, longing and anxiety with exceptional poise. The depth of his determination, almost purgatorial in nature, is alarming to watch but incredibly moving. The film does not spell out the details of the relationship or the tragedy, and in this sense something intentionally feels amiss, but the performances feel familiar and distant at the same time: bringing you closer and then pushing you away at the crucial moment.
The technical aspects of the film are flawless. The film is stunningly shot and never are you taken out of the action: the immersion is sustained throughout. The film makes use of a shaky hand-held camera to good effect, depicting past memories in an intimate and distinctive way. The use of mirrors is also very well executed, and this technique results in some of the most visually striking shots. The film also has a number of brilliant shots where the camera moves in or out to reveal more information and expose more of the environment. There is versatility in cinematography, constantly re-enamouring you with each new scene, while maintaining a consistent tone.
In Too Deep is an astonishingly poignant film that speaks to the current moment of considering the relationship between technology, trauma and memory. The film is masterfully constructed, generating tension and intrigue through mise en scène, score and shot selection. It targets your heart and your head, not overly intellectualizing the subject matter or becoming so sentimental that the overarching issues and themes fade into the background. It isn’t didactic and doesn’t force a solution onto the viewer, but rather sits with ambiguity: the fear of right and wrong becoming increasingly indistinguishable. In Too Deep eats away at you at every level.