Written and directed by Mike Clarke, soon after his wife has left him, William finds his life turned further upside down upon meeting Tina, a younger woman with problems of her own. Starring: Kyle Brookes, Sophia Leanne Kelly, Danni Shepherd, Macaulay Cooper, Helen Kent, Phil Gwilliam, Michelle Monk and Emily Rose Holt.
Bringing together people who are completely opposite personalities to bring out the best in both of them is a beloved plot of cinema. A Light Through Coloured Glass gives us the buttoned up, fiercely loyal and puritanical William (Kyle Brookes) and the off the cuff, crass and apathetic Tina (Sophia Leanne Kelly). It’s a classic mix of while they don’t immediately get along, they see what the other person can offer them, both looking for a push in the right direction. It’s a familiar storyline for a reason, it works. The progression is slow but clear, it’s paced out to keep having something to add. However, there are some weak points, mostly where it tries too hard to push Tina’s personality and makes it messy because they’re throwing off the balance. While she can be as loud and foul-mouthed as she likes, there has to be room for that twinkle of potential and a lot of the time it feels like it’s missing. The biggest effect that has is making the ending feel somewhat unjustified, as if it hasn’t quite built enough groundwork yet.
However, directorially it’s much more consistent, it creates that feeling of the everyday. It’s sticking to its themes and moving in a manner that reflects the mundanity, the struggle, the messiness of daily life. It makes a good impression in the opening and holds onto that throughout, building an intimate atmosphere without trying to bring through too much warmth. Mike Clarke avoids falling into overtly sentimental territory, which is one of A Light Through Coloured Glass’ key strengths. Trying to push a romantic or buddy style tone to these two leads would have completely thrown itself under the bus, and it’s been seen many times before, so it’s a nice change when it moves more naturally. Although there are a few strange additions, particularly its penultimate scene which feels slightly obscure and could have been reined in slightly to make it more organic.
With the acting, we get exactly what it says on the tin, and while that may sound like a negative thing, it sincerely is not. That’s because these two character personas are very familiar and require a lot of physicality and drama, which is not always an easy thing to pull off without going too far, becoming melodramatic or losing all feel of authenticity. Kyle Brookes and Sophia Leanne Kelly provide performances that embrace the hugely dramatic nature while feeling real. Their connection is solid, a peaking through the cracks of the initial clash to see the potential friendship that lies beneath, then slowly coming together.
Kelly gives us all the qualities you’d expecting, Tina is loud and cares very little what anyone else thinks, as well as being quick to react if she feels patronized or looked down on. There isn’t a huge amount of room for her to grow but she does bring through a few moments of vulnerability and acts of kindness while trying to fight her usual selfish instincts. While Brookes gives William a very pent up quality, there’s a lot of emotion he’s shoving down and he’s quick to help others but no so quick to help himself, so when he finally lets loose it makes for some charged scenes.
A Light Through Coloured Glass tells a story of different worlds colliding, one of religion and community, the other drugs and apathy, coming together to send each other down a better path. It’s dramatic but grounded, the performances are authentic and the writing keeps a good pacing but does hit a few bumps here and there. The direction is solid and while there may be room for improvement, for a first feature as a solo-director from Mike Clarke it lays some solid ground.