The Kármán Line


Reviewed by: Rebecca Naughten

The Kármán Line
"The Kármán Line packs a punch in the emotional stakes thanks to an excellent cast who all invest their characters with warmth and humour."

The Kármán Line is a magic-realist tale following the travails of a family after Sarah (Olivia Colman) develops a mysterious illness that causes her to lift from the ground at an ever-increasing rate. As Sarah's family - husband Dave (Shaun Dooley) and daughter Carly (Chelsea Corfield) - first try to adapt the house to her changing needs and then gradually come to terms with letting her go (in a very literal sense, as at one point Dave resorts to tethering his wife to the ground), Oscar Sharp's short film is a fable-like representation of illness, denial, grief, and loss.

The film's title - The Kárman Line - refers to the boundary between the Earth's atmosphere and outer space, not ordinarily a point of reference for films with scenes of everyday domesticity of the like we see play out at the start of the film. But the film also walks a line between the fabulist (as Sarah heads into space) and the absurdities of the mundane minutiae of domestic life, whether the practicalities of going to the toilet when you're several feet off the ground or a Mum worrying that her daughter is yet again eating beans on toast for her tea.

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Sarah's predicament may be fantastical but it operates within a defined physical reality - namely the house through which she makes the initial stages of her ascent. As she hovers mid-air, holes have to be cut in the ceiling to allow her to comfortably progress - but Sarah's positions between one floor and another also work as a metaphor for her coming to terms with what is happening to her (and the inevitable outcome).

The film manages to marry magical visuals (courtesy of DoP Robbie Ryan) - one standout image is Sarah in the sky with London laid out below, as a murmuration of starlings flies around her - with emotional heft. The Kármán Line packs a punch in the emotional stakes thanks to an excellent cast who all invest their characters with warmth and humour. Dooley and Corfield perhaps have the harder job in reacting to the outlandish situation but their performances of grief are extremely moving.

Centrestage, Colman utilises her innate likeability and talent at wordlessly conveying emotion - Sarah may be a paragon of the "mustn't grumble" mentality, but Colman tips her hand with a trembling bottom lip and eyes that shimmer with withheld tears - to pull the viewer into the story within the short running time with great emotional efficiency. Recommended.

The Kárman Line is now available globally on

Reviewed on: 12 Feb 2015
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A woman develops a rare illness causing her to lift off the ground at a slow but increasing rate.

Director: Oscar Sharp

Writer: Dawn King, Oscar Sharp

Starring: Olivia Colman, Shaun Dooley, Chelsea Corfield, David Cann, Julia Watson, Sarah McVicar, Gil Kolirin, Matthew Earley, Sydney White

Year: 2014

Runtime: 24 minutes

Country: UK


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