Review: Distressed

Written and directed by Martin Sandin, what if everything you ever fought for suddenly means nothing? Leaving you with two options, changing who you are or losing what matters most.

The early transitions and movements of this film feel very familiar and give a clear course of where it’s heading, or so you may think. As it moves forward, it lacks that initial clarity and it starts to feel like a back and forth of being sure and unsure of what it’s trying to do or say, which is not an entirely comfortable viewing experience as it distracts from the events at hand. It’s an issue that plagues the film because while that initial clarity states its intentions, it’s missing a tangible depth of emotion to see them through, it doesn’t have the atmosphere to justify its attempts at quiet contemplation.

When the writing takes a more overt step of interrupting that silence, it feels like a step in the wrong direction, it’s a slightly jarring change in tone and thereby feels more awkward and ill-timed. It’s something that at times is ameliorated by the lead performance, he does well to hold out those quiet moments but in more emotional moments it doesn’t quite get across with the sincerity intended. Something that’s more of a problem with the inclusion of his character’s daughter, offscreen it’s fine but the performance onscreen is much too saccharine and fights against the film’s more contemplative intentions.

On the other hand, the element that genuinely does work is Sandin’s direction, it sincerely fits a melancholy tone, it has great movement and makes use of different spaces really well but unfortunately it doesn’t have the story to do justice to it. Sandin uses his framing to feed into the inward, self-reflection themes of the story and it attempts to bring through more of a sincerity that the rest is lacking but sadly it’s not enough to permeate the entire project.

Distressed unfortunately aimed too high and can’t pull off the deeper emotions that this story calls for. Its intentions feel slightly muddled and there’s a lacking confidence in the storytelling that holds it back. However, Sandin’s direction is well done and brings through a sense of style and personality that the rest of the film is missing, it’s a shame that the story can’t do it justice.

Verdict: ✯✯ | 4/10

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