Held For A Moment


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Held For A Moment
"The combination of Japp's patient approach and Desplat's emotionally intense performance is powerful."

During World War One, soldiers who started behaving so erratically that they had to be recalled from the frontlines were frequently derided as cowards and some were even executed for what would later be recognised as shell shock, a form of post traumatic stress disorder. In the same period, women who experienced pregnancy-related trauma and behaved in socially challenging ways afterwards were frequently written off as mad and heavily medicated or shut away in institutions, sometimes for the rest of their lives. Today, we recognise that it's normal for otherwise perfectly healthy people to experience disorientation and difficulty adjusting to such circumstances. This isn't widely understood among those at the sharp end, however. so this hard-hitting short has an important job to do.

Director Edward Japp, two of whose family members were affected by similar trauma, drew on real-life stories to develop the film along with Antonia Desplat, who plays the lead, Alice. With husband Robert (Liam McMahon) out at work much of the time, Alice has abruptly found herself in the position of many young women, suddenly cut off from the wider world, spending most of her time at home with a visit to the supermarket, pushing the pram, the highlight of her day. But from the start, we can sense that something isn't right. Alice seems peculiarly separate from the world. Her reactions are not quite normal. When her husband is due home, she hurriedly scoops a ready-meal onto his plate, hides the box and tells him she's been busy for ages making dinner. He politely pretends to enjoy the food. He never asks the questions most new fathers would on getting back to the family home. Soon, because he has to go away on a business trip, he's arranging for somebody to pop in and give her a little bit of help.

Gradually, flashbacks begin to intrude into the narrative, but we don't need these to figure out what has happened. Rather, they illustrate the gradual process of Alice coming to terms with it, getting closer to the point where she must recognise reality. This is handled with grace and restraint; nevertheless it's likely to be a very difficult watch for those who have had similar experiences and nervous expectant parents are probably best advised to wait before they watch. The combination of Japp's patient approach and Desplat's emotionally intense performance is powerful.

Adam Barnett's cinematography creates a sense of distance and coldness in a spacious home that his been painted in baby-soft colours. Alice seems lost in all this space, folding up on a chair or in the bath, perpetually on the brink of collapse when she's walking. There's an echo of the fatigue most new parents experience, and yet many of her behaviours seem designed to fill up time as if willing it to go away. It is to Japp's credit that this never spills over into the structure of the film itself. In the space of 20 minutes it does exactly what it needs to and no more, and yet it's what's missing that will break your heart.

Reviewed on: 15 Apr 2019
Share this with others on...
Held For A Moment packshot
The story of one woman's response to pregnancy-related trauma.

Director: Edward Japp

Writer: Antonia Desplat, Edward Japp

Starring: Antonia Desplat, Liam McMahon, Niamh McGrady

Year: 2019

Runtime: 20 minutes

Country: UK


Search database: