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When Nobody is Looking (Cuando nadie nos mira)

Film Three Stars

On the second day of Dead by Dawn we were treated to four short films one after the other, the first was a fourteen minute short film from Spain and writer\director Pau Atienza.

I'm always unsure about watching short films because I find they can be extremely hit and miss. There's such a short time in which to get across your backstory, characters, plot, progression and conclusions, and sometimes they can be really good and love the genre they are in, and sometimes they cry out for a longer treatment, for a full feature. Without a doubt When Nobody is Looking charges into the latter category.

The Dead by Dawn 2006 brochure lists the film as:

In a near futures a young woman, Anna, suffers a progressive addiction to a drug which begins to have bizarre side-effects, threatening to ruin the already tenuous relationship she has with her mother. With communication almost non-existent, her mother decides to take an extraordinary step to restore Anna's innocence.

I was originally going to mark this film as a three out of five, but looking back on it as I write this review that's really doing it an injustice. Of course it doesn't quite work as a complete story in this shortened form, but if you accept the genre of short films then you can see a lot in this little film.

There are some strongly visualised ideas in the film that are very well conceived and brought to the screen, just oozing style. The dealer and the effects of the drug that Anna is taking are scenes that are intoxicating in themselves to watch, but unfortunately all too brief.

The effects are superb, the 3D visuals of dancers do stand out against the rest of the film which manages to provide some wonderful effects through much simpler and reality based film tricks. They could either have been increased in movement and style or perhaps removed altogether and concentrated on the same effects style as the rest of the film.

However, what is important is that the focus is kept on the parental relationship with these other scenes showing the progressive degeneration of Anna at the hands of both the dealer and the drug itself, and it works well in this. Both actresses provide good performances, and there are some extremely tender moments where Anna reaches out to her and then snaps away as soon as she opens to her.

There is one scene in the film which is perhaps where the horror connection comes in, for these series of shorts are really about being made uncomfortable and playing on aspects of your body and your life that you feel shouldn't be touched, not just children and their innocence. This film provides one of the strongest uncomfortable moments of all of these shorts, and I shuddered when it happened, while the rest of the audience audibly cringed.

The sets and costumes are quite clever, because everything makes you think of the future without going over the top. The grey, sterile aspects of the set instantly provide that futuristic feeling, something you catch very quickly and it helps fix the storyline. Set alongside the opening home video of an idyllic life seemingly set in modern day with warm, strong colours presents not only the timeline difference, but also the relationship difference.

This short film is good, but what I think it really does well is show a promise of much, much more. It makes you hunger for the world they've created, it is almost like a drug itself, they've given us the first taste and we want more. This has huge potential and the possibility of a great film, but it is all too short and you really feel that far too much has been left unexplored. Particularly that wonderful character of the dealer. Please someone, pick this up for a feature.

IMDB Film Details
Dead by Dawn



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