Written and directed by Matthew Kyle Levine, co-directed by Shea Glasheen, a young woman aimlessly wanders around her lakeside home while her father is out of town. Starring: Desi Stephens and Ben Tiberio.
Right from the start the directorial and aesthetic style of House to Herself is pronounced and clear; it’s sharp, clean, modern and light. Matthew Kyle Levine and Shea Glasheen use the space in an extremely clever way, their framing is superb and it tantalisingly asks questions while its actors remain silent. It certainly helps to have chosen a picture perfect location, capturing isolation and loneliness, and capitalising on the natural mixed with modern details. There’s a sincere confidence to how it holds itself in the quiet, there’s undoubtedly multiple interpretations to be made and it will speak differently to each viewer. One of the very interesting things is that there are hints to Levine’s previous shorts but the style as a whole is a huge departure.
The story is deceptively simple and holds fascinating complex layers of psychology beneath. The minimal style of dialogue gives the audience a lot of room to play around with their imagination but there are hints at the larger picture. For instance, one particularly smart addition, having its protagonist watch kids television, it plays upon her youthfulness and yet there’s also a sinister quality to it. It’s very satisfying to watch it play this game of trust, we only know so little that you can lean one way or the other, is she genuinely naïve or is she intelligently cunning? It also nicely touches upon the idea of serving your own needs, finding self-satisfaction and becoming a creature of habit.
All of which is neatly wrapped up in the package of actress Desi Stephens, even just a lone shot of her stood on a dock staring into the distance holds a number of emotions. She brilliantly brings to the table a mix of coldness, independency and vulnerability. The protagonist is simply one of those characters where it’s hugely enjoyable to try and figure out what’s going on in their head, because while you’re given clues, you can never know for sure. It’s akin to the complexity you might find in performances from actresses like Eliza Scanlen or Kathryn Newton, being able to switch devilishly from sweet and innocent to hiding something dark.
House to Herself is sharply deceptive, plays upon your perceptions and says as little as possible to make you figure things out for yourself. Levine and Glasheen are an impressively strong duo, jointly directing as well as editing and Levine also serving as cinematographer, they create an impactful visual. It’s framed to speak volumes, they make fantastic use of the incredible location and all the natural beauty and isolation it has to offer. It’s so satisfying to watch it play with your mind, and the contrast of its lightness and clean aesthetic with the growing darkness to its story, is wonderful.