Late Afternoon | Short Film Review
By Alexandra Kelley (May 2nd, 2019)
Directed by: Louise Bagnall
Written by: Louise Bagnall
Produced by: Nuria González Blanco
Key Cast: Fionnula Flanagan, Niamh Moyles, Lucy O’Connell, Michael McGrath
Late Afternoon opens with an elderly woman, enjoying her tea and biscuit, sitting in a comfy chair in a sunlit room. The scene moves forward, and as she drops half of her biscuit into her cup, she stares into the tea and falls down a rabbit hole of her consciousness, swimming between colorful moments in her life. This is a sunny painting of dementia, Alzheimer's, or any other memory loss illness. And it is charming; the audience watches the retrospective of a life that begins at childhood on the beach. Young Emily bounces from activity to activity, as curious and uninhibited as Alice In Wonderland. Yet as Emily moves through her life we experience the new feelings that come with growing: obligations, relationships, anxieties. It scares Emily, and her inability to seemingly ‘catch up’ frightens her and rattles her back to the present.
For those who have witnessed memory loss first-hand, this is the most accurate and searing part of the film. Elderly Emily begins to succumb to her old anxieties and fears that characterized her life. “I was never very good at keeping time” she admits, smiling through her shame. This paranoia of missing, of running and never making her destination plagued her throughout her life and attempts to swallow her. This uncertainty and confusion continue as she drifts through her consciousness anachronistically. In the same thought, she goes from a child to an expectant mother, from a nervous girl to a tranquil adult. These moments that seem to have no conclusion almost swallow her, until, fortunately, Emily returns.
As charming as the animation in Late Afternoon is, and as particularly well represented the essence of dementia is, it is hard to call it an accurate portrayal. The motions that allow Emily to flow through her mind, a deep well of inseparable memories, are the only way the erosion of the mind can be understood. But the stark difference between Bagnall’s interpretation of dementia and what most people see is how dark the disease truly is. The brightness surrounding the images illuminates what is more commonly an overwhelming state of despair. Just imagine, being in a dark well and not knowing how to rise to the surface. Perhaps, however, an accurate depiction of mental illness is not what we need to see. Perhaps what Late Afternoon strives to highlight is the fact that no matter how many the the waves of time crash on the shore of the mind, Emily will always be Emily, forever written in the sand.
- Alexandra Kelley