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Internal Abyss is a somber and touching showcase from talented new voices
Short films in focus
Directed by Helena Antonio and written by Charlotte Fenton and Simon Jefferson, Internal Abyss has picked an uphill battle for itself.
It’s a snapshot of a toxic and abusive relationship told from the perspective of Mia, a young girl following in the footsteps of other abusive examples in her life. She plans a birthday party to coincide with her jerk boyfriend’s nonstarter band’s gig. Her parents are too deep in their own toxic swamp to notice, and school is a haven for bullying.
They’re things most of us have experienced at one time or another. They’re also events that, at a particular age, feel insurmountable.
But communicating that in a short film is difficult. More often than not, the results are twee, maudlin, and insincere.
Which is why Internal Abyss stands out and shines so brightly. Its script is bereft of cliché and hokum, instead focusing on authentic nuances and small moments that hit harder because they capture the mundane hurt we experience.
Director Antonio understands when to push and when to step away, giving the fleeting 20-minute runtime the air it needs to breathe. As Mia, writer and actor Charlotte Fenton is always believable as an unsure youth who knows she deserves better, but doesn’t know how to articulate it for herself or others. Fenton throws herself in the role, but never allows it to turn into pantomime.
We look back on her mistakes with empathy, because Fenton and Antonio draw us in with immense warmth and maturity, which remind us how those first betrayals feel. The results are intimate and even uncomfortable, yet nothing short of immaculate.
And if the end feels just a touch naive, it’s entirely forgivable. Short films, by their very nature, are just glimpses of something bigger. We can only imagine what comes next for Mia.
What’s important is that Antonio, Fenton, and Jefferson make us care enough that we want to ask that question. By the time the credits roll, her happiness feels important.
It’s the mark of a successful storyteller, one who has captivated their audience entirely.