Review: Swaniful

Written and directed by Victoria Muldoon, exploring the idea of escaping self-isolation and feeling as free as a bird, and starring the director’s mother Jean Muldoon.

Given the events of the past year, there has evolved a collective experience of isolation, loneliness, boredom, frustration and monotony, as well as an increased appreciation for the things we have such easy access to like online exercises classes and nature. Within its very brief 3-minutes, Swaniful manages to encapsulate that feeling and experience. Especially in terms of how the pandemic started to get people outside more, going for walks, talking in the local flora and fauna and having mini revelations about the enjoyment that can be found for free right outside your door.

There’s also a nice connection between using footage of the swans mixed with dance classes surrounding Swan Lake, it adds an unusual character to the film and one of the different aspects that brings a tangible personality to it, even in such a short time. One of the other aspects is the subject of the documentary Jean, she brings a friendly, creative and positive presence, it brings the atmosphere of isolation while balancing it with the positivity of keeping active, trying new things and making the most of a bad situation.

Considering that the film was shot entirely on a phone, some leeway has to be given for the sound and picture quality but it does bring a very relatable and everyday feel to the film. The editing feels somewhat choppy, it could have used smoother transitions at times which would have been a good way of extending the relaxing tone it builds from the swan footage throughout. Otherwise, there is a good variety of shots, especially given the time limit, it was a good choice to not simply stick to straight to camera type shots. You can see the creativity in trying to use a number of different angles, which again helps to bring through a personality to the visual and emphasise the feeling its subject creates.

Swaniful does a great job of encapsulating a collective experience of isolation and changing perspectives. It creates an impressive amount of character and personality to its visual in those 3-minutes and is a perfect example of getting creative when your options are limited. It could be smoothed out slightly but it’s relaxing, positive and relatable.

Verdict: ✯✯✯½ | 7/10

To be screened at Walthamstow International Film Festival as part of their life on a smartphone strand

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