[dropcap size=dropcap]E[/dropcap]ric Kolelas’ melancholy drama Fifty Pence has a warm sentiment at its core that contrasts beautifully with its stark outward appearance. We follow Darren (Kolelas) as he traverses Parisian streets with grim purpose and a muted young woman in tow (Anoushka Ravanshad). Darren has been tasked with delivering the vulnerable girl to some distinctly shady characters, but the circumstances are obscured from us. Confronted with the reality of his actions which he has perhaps avoided until now, Darren must decide whether he can act upon his convictions at a crossroads in his life.
A stark, melancholy drama with a warming core.
We know little else about Darren or his charge; how they ended up together in his apartment or what kind of trouble either of them is running from is unclear. Is she a victim of sex trafficking, the ex-girlfriend of one of the gangsters, or an ill-fated one night stand that Darren selected to meet the needs of his employers? Her dazed affectation and apparent lack of apprehension suggest she too is in the dark about her situation.
The strengths of the film are in the cinematography and sound design, which control the pace of the story in its intimacy and movement. Amy Smith’s muted score tempers a chase scene with a stripped back soundtrack so that it prolongs the mystery and underscores the tension. The acting from the two leads is accomplished and consistent, perhaps aided by the fact Kolelas cast a friend in his opposite role. Ravanshad manages to convey self-disgust, confidence, and gratitude all with a subtlety that endows the scenes with gravity. Her detached stare at a mother and child is a hint at what may have gone wrong in her life, while Darren speaks on the phone to an estranged family member, promising to return soon. These are people at the end of a story, beleaguered, out of options but one of them with the opportunity to stake another future for them both.
In the face of an overwhelmingly competitive pool of young London based actors, Kolelas wrote and directed Fifty Pence in order to showcase his acting talents, showing a great amount of initiative and ambition in doing so. And although at times this motivation does seep through and the film appears an exercise in filmmaking, it stands its ground among other shorts and as a piece of art. Directing and starring in his most recent film, Crossed Wires, Kolelas has continued to develop his multi-disciplinary skill set. Inspired by ‘Instant Film’, it is an experiment in improvisation pulled off to perfection, exploring two opposing views of a one-night-stand.
A markedly accomplished first film hints at bags of potential in both acting and directing, so it will be interesting to see in which direction Kolelas steers his career.