Review: Too Rough

Written and directed by Sean Lìonadh, after a night of intoxication, a hungover and hysterical Nick wakes up next to his boyfriend Charlie and must conceal him from his own homophobic and dysfunctional family. Starring: Ruaridh Mollica, Joshua Griffin, Tomas Palmer, Neshla Caplan, Jane McCarry, Kevin O’Loughlin and Oliver Wright.

Putting together a film exploring an intensely emotional and sensitive topic is something which inherently has to be done with grace and a skilful touch, which is exactly how Sean Lìonadh approaches Too Rough. The style of its opening with its great colouring and lively energy dives headfirst into queer themes, then right as they wake up the next morning it crashes into a mix of being incredibly grounded, tense, anxious and claustrophobic. There’s an almost overwhelming level of emotion emanating from this film and Lìonadh’s directorial style has the perfect handle on it. The framing is brilliant, there’s a huge variety of angles and it truly embraces the intimacy and depth to this story. It builds a genuinely powerful atmosphere which expertly gets under your skin.

One of the reasons why the style hits so hard is how the story moves, its focus is not on its dramatic nature but on the emotions at work. It has a fantastic grasp on trauma, dysfunction, homophobia and abuse but it portrays them in a way which allows their impact and the importance of support to take the lead. There’s an affectionate vein which comes from the connection between Nick (Ruaridh Mollica) and Charlie (Joshua Griffin), it builds a strength in how the more aware of the situation Charlie becomes, the more he ardently supports Nick. It also serves as a wonderful reminder that just because people seem fine on the surface, doesn’t mean everything in their life is perfect and that you should always try to be aware, kind and considerate. As the story unfolds, the harshness of its reality deepens and does so in a way that doesn’t slap you in the face but tightly grasps your heart and slowly squeezes tighter.

Undeniably an essential part of what powers the punch behind Too Rough are the performances from Ruaridh Mollica and Joshua Griffin. Mollica brings such an intense vulnerability to the table that it almost leaves you speechless, his growing anxiety and fear is utterly compelling. Whereas Griffin has an evolving arc to his character, his bubbly and casual nature slowly giving way to the genuine care and affection he has for Nick and becoming a rock to steady him. It’s impressive that within such a bleak environment they manage to capture a sweetness, the relationship that they build is sincerely moving.

Too Rough is filled with a remarkable sincerity, an intense sadness, a powerful atmosphere and a touching relationship. Ruaridh Mollica and Joshua Griffin both give incredible performances and bring together a deeply emotional story with elegance and subtlety, while still capturing the youth of their characters. Sean Lìonadh’s direction beautifully embraces the heavy task at hand of bringing this powerhouse of emotion to life and creates a memorable, harsh but tender experience.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯½ | 9/10

Screening as part of HollyShorts 2022 on August 12

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