The promise of digital film-making was that everyone and anyone would have the chance to tell a story. That promise hasn’t quite been delivered; while it’s now possible to make a film with pristine images without mortgaging your house to do so, getting that film to an audience is still prohibitive. You either pay top dollar for a service agreement with a known distributor, or you do a home-made release and reach your immediate social media friends. It’s not impossible for a film to break-out to a wider audience, but it’s tough, and the kind of deals you get on itunes and Prime make it very hard to make your money back.
I get roughly thirty requests a week to review films, and tend to choose those that I think have potential. Writer and director Daria Nazarova’s LA –based domestic drama looked promising for a number of reasons; I can never cover enough female film-makers, but a chamber piece with three main characters is a good way to go. Claire (Daria Nazarova) is a young woman trapped in an internecine relationship with her husband Eric (Timothy Ryan Cole); her discovery of a long dark hair on the bedroom floor is the catalyst for angst between them. But what is the role of her therapist Monica (Charlotte Beckett) who Claire meets? Could Monica be having an affair with Eric, or even Claire? A disconcerting dream sequence explores the latter, but as the film’s time-lines fracture, it becomes harder and harder to trust initial impressions.
Emotional rather than physical violence is rampant here, and that’s an important distinction; Nazarova’s film skips the histrionics and contrivances that bedevil many low-budget films. The performances levels are good for the three principals, and the result feels very controlled. Perhaps too much so; once Claire’s unreliability is established, it’s hard to maintain the direction of the story, and the lack of visual enticements (or outdoor shots) may inhibit some audiences.
Yet over the piece, The Shattering just about pulls off a female-led psychological drama that, if you can accept the premise of the film, delivers on the idea. As we struggle to find an agreed reality on a worldwide scale, Nazarova has made a drama about the dangers of finding solace by ducking away from that real world. Well-acted and conceived, it’s a tiny but genuinely promising film that provides a calling card for a talented new female voice.