Seat In Shadow


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Seat In Shadow
"Henry Coombes' film contains some highly entertaining banter."

About halfway through this film, standing outside a nightclub and a little the worse for wear, sixtysomething psychiatrist Albert (co-writer David Sillars) is asked if there isn't supposed to be a distance between professional and personal relationships. That's rather old fashioned thinking, he declares. But before the end of the film, even Albert will begin to wonder if he hasn't gotten in too deep.

When we first meet Albert he's in semi-retirement, focusing on painting pictures in a flat which doesn't seem to have been cleaned for several years. A old friend, with whom he shares the kind of banter that would be considered unforgivably insulting anywhere outside Glasgow, visits to tell him that she's worried about her grandson Ben (Jonathan Leslie). She's not very clear about what the problem is, but it's plain that Ben, a young gay man whom life has already disappointed, isn't getting much support at home, so arrangements are made for therapy.

Henry Coombes' film contains some highly entertaining banter. Albert tries to endear himself to the youth by dropping in extensive references to gay culture, but they simply emphasise the age gap between the two: not only is Ben too young to appreciate them, he lives in a time when the greater acceptance of homosexuality means it has lost a lot of its cultural currency, as there are so many different ways for him to identify role models or understand himself that he's as lost as the average straight kid. Whilst Albert pokes around his mind in search of existential crises, he's just worried about his relationship with a boyfriend whom he's good at offending and doesn't really seem to like. The script picks apart these differences beautifully and shows a lot more insight than Albert does, despite Albert drawing on the wisdom of a plant which he believes to be the reincarnation of Carl Jung.

Albert is a wonderful character and Sillars really gives the part his all. Films like this depend on relationships, however, and whilst we can see why Ben gradually lets his guard down and comes to find himself intrigued by the psychiatrist, it's harder to see what's supposed to be happening in the other direction. Sure, Ben is a cute kid, but there's very little to him. His relationship with his unpleasant boyfriend (Lee Partridge) has potential but is underexplored. This leaves the film a bit lopsided, with Sillars carrying large parts of it by himself.

There is affectionate comment here on changing culture, especially in the nightclub scenes where Coombes gets more creative with his camerawork and stylistic choices, and where a performer attempts to entertain drugged-up young men with a routine that can make little contextual sense to anyone (still) present. Elsewhere the use of symbolism is less successful but it still gets across the point that it is the act of creation that matters regardless of what is created, just as the relationship between psychiatrist and client does more to achieve healing than the particular techniques employed.

Seat In Shadow is not entirely successful but there's a lot to recommend it, and fans of Sillars' work will be in for a treat.

Reviewed on: 04 Sep 2017
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A painter who doubles as a psychotherapist tries to help a young man battling depression.

Director: Henry Coombes

Writer: Henry Coombes, David Sillars

Starring: David Sillars, Jonathan Leslie, Lee Partridge, Henry Coombes

Year: 2016

Runtime: 82 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted


EIFF 2016
Flare 2017

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