Written and directed by lead actor Mark McAuley, an actor has a life changing audition on the day of his Dad’s funeral. Also starring: Barry John Kinsella, Fiach Kunz, Lacy Moore and Shane Robinson.
Tackling a story about grief is never easy, it’s a complex and heavy topic so taking on one that reflects your own personal story is even more of a challenge; one that Mark McAuley accepts and rises to wonderfully. There’s two key elements to why Throw Your Heart Over First works so well and first is the power of that sincere emotion. It’s coming from such an intensely personal place and it’s translated with such a beautiful balance into the script. It captures that lost or broken feeling but at the same time, it has a good sense of humour. There’s also a good amount of tension, setting things on edge which makes for a swift pacing and holds a great flow to it.
A big aspect of that fluidity is the second key element, choosing to shoot it as one-shot. Without ever cutting away it manages to contain a great deal of different tones. Its opening throws a lot at you, it’s intense, funny and even a tad aggressive which pulls you in very effectively. As it then moves forward, it brings more layers into the fold, it peels back the depths to Mark McAuley’s Dave. As it does it becomes quietly touching with a strong impact, that everyday feel means it can get under your skin with the emotion, even throw it at you and still retain a modesty.
When it comes to McAuley’s directorial style, and Eoin McGovern’s cinematography, it’s absolute perfection in capturing that industry atmosphere. Embodying the actor struggle, the arduous work for seconds in a room that’s so controlled by ridiculous standards through the briefest of impressions. Which in turn brings up the classic question faced by actors, do you play into that scrutiny and just do what’s asked or do you push back, try to do something different? Because you never know whether it will blow up in your face or set you apart.
The quality of the visual and writing speak for themselves but they do still need that key performance to really bring everything together, and McAuley provides that without question. It’s strong and sincere, he holds a relatable and sympathetic presence. There’s a touch of desperation with its fragility, feeding into that sense of grief making you feel like you’ve drifted out to sea and are struggling to find your way back to solid ground. It’s a performance that grows and intensifies as time goes on, pushing that tension and exploding the emotion then as things wrap up he really communicates that sigh of relief after letting his internal struggle out.
Throw Your Heart Over First is a tense, moving and creative exploration of grief. It translates the topic into the world of acting and the two make a perfect pair. Making the short as a one-shot film not only strongly captures the industry setting but allows it to smoothly flow through the different emotions that it has to offer. There’s a great deal squeezed into its handful of minutes, it’s funny, touching and humble, led by a superb and compelling performance from writer, director Mark McAuley.