Review: Distressed

Written and directed by Martin Sandin, a broken-down 41-year-old father needs to change his life or lose what’s most important to him. Starring: Carl Ingemarsson Stjernlöf, Elora Schaaf and Malin Barr.

The visual quality of this film is consistently sharp and crisp from the second it opens, until the credits roll. It quickly builds an atmosphere of melancholia, frustration and feeling lost, with a slightly ominous or fearful edge. It brings forth the idea that his emotions are haunting him, of being trapped and needing isolation to work through the feelings that have bubbled to the surface. The cinematography has a great use of colour to accent its story and its use of sound emphasises the emotions, especially that of being overwhelmed or underwater. Sandin’s use of angles gives an eye for detail and his later use of a slow approaching shot displays a sincere amount of confidence by holding it for over a minute as its intensity grows.

Sandin’s story is one that is highly relatable, being overworked and seeing no end in sight for the unending stress you’re dealing with, leaving you unable to cope or lead a healthy life. Its use of narration accents that difficulty, with both the reasons why he’s struggling and the people he’s leaving behind in his isolation. It’s a clear message about priorities and balancing putting yourself and your mental health at the forefront while still being open and supportive with the people who matter to you. At times the narration becomes slightly too overt, there could have been a touch more subtlety to it. Once it has established his persona and situation early on, and the atmosphere has been created, it could have been used more sparingly, as the visual and acting speak for themselves by that point.

Stjernlöf easily captures the explosive frustration and stress that his character is dealing with. It’s just as convincing in its quiet moments as it is in its volatility. He’s realistically the entire focus of this story, his wife and daughter are present to accent and further his story but it’s on his shoulders. Taking into consideration that you don’t actually learn that much about his character, it impressively doesn’t need the extra detail, Stjernlöf brings a relatability and sympathetic edge to Nathan. It even potentially works in its favour to not know too much about him, it leaves open more possibilities of what he’s capable of and for the audience to piece together what kind of person he truly is beneath his anger.

Distressed is a relevant story of stress, mental health, family and the day to day pressures that almost anyone could understand. Stjernlöf leads the charge well and his performance excels even in the moments where he simply has to do nothing, he can still communicate the feelings of his character. The direction and cinematography are sharp, there’s a good amount of detail and colour to emphasise and influence the atmosphere that the story creates. It’s full of melancholia, sadness, frustration and a host of emotions that are utterly relatable.

Verdict: ✯✯✯½ | 7/10

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