“Edith”, British actor Christian Cooke’s baptism of fire in terms of directing, is a visually stunning masterpiece who had its first festival bow at the BAFTA qualifying Cambridge Film Festival.
Written by Ray Robinson who has also penned the script for Bryn Higgins’ 2014 film “Electricity” based on Robinson’s own best-selling 2006 novel, the short explores the life of Jake, an elderly man who is coping with the death of his wife, Edith. Jake believes his dead wife is not only haunting him but that she can see into his soul…
Cooke sketches a portrait of a man who is unable to let go with sublime delicacy, compassion and visual creativity. His understanding of Jake’s pain is palpable throughout the entire film and this is what helps him convey it on the screen in such a powerful manner. In that, he is nimbly aided by nuanced performances of seasoned thespians Peter Mullan (known for his role in Spielberg’s “War Horse”) and Michelle Fairley (now even more notorious thanks to HBO’s hit “Game of Thrones”) as well as Si Bell’s breathtaking crisp lensing of the bleak and cold scenery and close-ups that intensify the emotions and viewing experience. Indeed, thanks to Bell’ pictorial eye, Cooke masterfully spreads in his frame a palette of colors that offers a lovely play of chiaroscuro. From the beginning to the end, the viewer enjoys and marvels at beautiful landscape shots that impeccably convey Jake’s sensations as well as the winter cold of the beautiful barren landscapes of the area from New Castle to Bamburgh that provide dramatic power and wilderness. The Northern moorland is a character in its own right here.
Haunting memories are captured elegantly and so is the haunting legacy of Jake’s life-long guilt over the legitimacy of their son, a son he loved and raised as his own. Together, Cooke, Bell and Mullan sensitively and skillfully articulate and transmit Jake’s journey of love, loss and regret and how he deals with these feelings with quiet dignity. Even though Edith cheated on him, he never stopped loving her and in a way he blames himself for not being able to provide her with a child and we feel Jake’s pain. The scarce dialogues and Richard J. Birkin’s moving score help Cooke in his choice to focus on the details (the wedding ring, Edith’s nightdress and the honey jar) for they speak for his protagonist and his past/story. And, last but not least, Tom Hughes’ original song “Don’t Look Down” superbly accompany the end credits.
“Edith” is a lyrical, intense and personal interpretation of how we find the strength to deal with grief and move forward from it. This cinematic work of art on many levels is a must-see for every lover of short film and exceptional direction and mesmerizing cinematography.
Production: Mini Productions, Mint Pictures (UK 2016)
Executive producers: Fiona Neilson, Declan Reddington, Mat Whitecross and A. John A. Bryan Jr.
Producers: Christian Cooke, Sara Huxley and April Kelley
Assistant producer: Sórcha Bradford
Associate producer: David Stead
Director: Christian Cooke
Screenplay: Ray Robinson
Cinematography: Si Bell
Music: Richard J. Birkin
Production Design: Felicity Hickman
Costume design: Clementine Charity
Editing: Marc Richardson
Cast: Michelle Fairley, Peter Mullan, Elliott Tittensor, Sai Bennett, Robyn Malcolm, Alex Jordan, Catherine McDonough
Color – 20 min.
Premiere: 21/10/2016 (Cambridge Film Festival)