Review: Notes

Written and directed by Jimmy Olsson, when Philip moves into a corporate apartment for a project, his only company is his piano keyboard. Missing his girlfriend back home, he composes a song for her, but when he can’t get a bit right, a better variation plays through the wall from his neighbour. Starring: Philip Oros, Moa Silén and Richard Sseruwagi.

Music is a universal language, it can express or change your emotions, it can be tied to memories throughout your life and as this film demonstrates, create meaningful connections. This story explores the power of music, what it can mean to find a group of notes that relate to how you feel and how it can easily turn into a shared experience. Everyone can relate to the turmoil of relationships, making its lead (Oros) utterly sympathetic. Given that the film is twenty minutes long, some would read that as long for a short film but the progression of the story keeps you hooked in and the credits are rolling before you know it. One of the aspects that helps it flow so smoothly is the huge vein of kindness that runs throughout it, it’s heart-warming and touching. It also brings in a surprising comedic edge, a touch that helps keep that relatable feel going strong. There isn’t a huge amount of dialogue to the film but that works in its favour as the film actually tends to have more to say when it’s saying nothing.

Jimmy Olsson’s direction is as emotionally charged as his writing, it moves in a way that’s graceful and subtle. The slow close-ups and smooth editing give the time for its feelings to land and connect. There’s then shots focusing more on the details, there’s a moving quality to watching his hands glide across the keys and out of the shot. It has an understated, flowing feel to its strong theme of sentimentality. The gradient of its visual also pushes that emotion further, having a nostalgic feel to its almost muted colour palette. Everything about its visual quality emphasises the emotions being brought forth by its writing and acting.

Philip Oros has an immediate air and look to him that’s relatable, he’s embodying your classic average guy, you don’t know much about him but he doesn’t give off a feeling of being vain or arrogant. He has to go through a decent amount of emotion in this role and he handles it extremely well, going easily from happy to angry to depressed, and especially in the latter moments when he expresses his character’s change and realisations purely through his eyes and facial expressions. Although it wouldn’t serve the story this film’s telling, it would have been great to see more from Richard Sseruwagi, in the brief moment he does appear, he has such a lovingly wise and generous quality.

Notes is a love letter to music, how much it can mean to you, how it can create an instant connection with another person and how it can perfectly express your emotions. Its direction, writing and acting are all emotionally charged, its style is understated with a certain elegance to its movement. It flows smoothly and draws you in deeply to its emotional journey which keeps a great pace. It’s sentimental, moving and hugely satisfying to watch, ending on a note of hope and kindness.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯½ | 9/10

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