Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Back in 2004, directing combo Sam Hearn and Richard Penfold, took part in the Bristol-based competition The Joy of 8. The result was three-minute gem, Dog Years, a neatly told story which easily overcame the difficulties of having to be shot “sequentially and unedited on a single 50' cartridge of Super 8 film stock”.

Four years down the line and – now, with added editing and some playing with the time frame – they are becoming quite the force to be reckoned with, competing in this year’s TCM Classic Shorts competition at the London Film Festival – which has a very strong line up.

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Leaving is the brutal and all too believable tale of a battered wife. “You okay?” asks hubbie, Jim (Johnny Harris). Wife Helen (Kierston Wareing), clearly isn’t, since as we meet her she is lying prone on the floor after another beating. This is her prison – although it remains to be seen whether she has the courage to grant herself and her son Liam (Joel Siffleet) parole or stick around until it becomes a death sentence.

Penfold and Hearn keep their camera close, hugging tight to the emotional depth provided by Harris and Wareing. By keeping the actual physical violence shown to a minimum, they are able to build a much more foreboding sense of menace, cleverly placing the audience in a similar position to that of an abused partner – will the strike come, and if it does, when will it happen? There is never a moment when you don’t view Jim as a time-bomb or a second when you aren’t willing Helen to find the strength to call a halt.

Despite its trim running time Leaving also finds time to ask questions of the audience and urges us to leave behind our preconceptions. This isn't some deprived, working class high-rise, this is violence beating at the heart of suburbia. What about our friends, our work colleagues? Are we leaving any of them to suffer by our silence? If this is how a directorial partnership can develop in four years, then we can only look forward to how it may grow in the future. There are rumours of a feature in development, let’s hope so.

Subsidiary note: I've just heard that this won the TCM Shorts competition - in my opinion the judges were spot on. This was, by a very short nose, the best of an exceptionally strong field.

Reviewed on: 20 Oct 2008
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A battered wife tries to find the courage to leave her husband.

Director: Sam Hearn, Richard Penfold

Writer: Penfold Richard

Starring: Kierston Wareing, Johnny Harris, Joe Siffleet

Year: 2008

Runtime: 22 minutes

Country: UK

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