Julien Neaves – Editor
So I have to start off this review with some full disclosure: I have known award-winning writer, director and producer Juliette McCawley (One Good Deed, Three Minutes), director of short film Sampson’s Heart, for a number of years now (about five or six but who’s counting?). It began with an interview wearing my journalist’s hat (it’s a fedora in case you’re wondering) and continued with seeing her at various film-related events. And I must say she is one of the sweetest and most hard-working people in the Trinidad and Tobago film industry.
But when she asked me to review Sampson’s Heart, which premiered at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival (TTFF) 2019, I told her I would be putting on my reviewer’s hat (a sombrero of course) and showing her short no mercy!
The 16-minute short is about young widower Sampson (Nickolai Salcedo of Salty Dog and Hero) who lives in self-imposed exile deep in the country and is haunted by the death of his wife. He receives an unexpected visitor from his past (Teneille Newallo of Bazodee, Mangroves) who forces him to confront his shattered life. In interviews McCawley had said she had the idea for the film but zero budget and fellow filmmaker Dion Boucaud told her “well I have a camera.” And thus her passion project was brought to life with a little help from her friends.
And despite the shoelace budget the film is well shot, which is testament to the talent behind the cameras. There are luscious panning shots of the idyllic landscape and intimate close-ups of the main cast. There was one jump cut error I noticed but overall the film is technically solid.
The highlight of the film is the nuanced and thoughtful performance by Salcedo. In just over 15 minutes he delivers a fully-formed character and taps into depths of pain and despair in a subtle, believable manner where less seasoned actors may have dived headlong into melodrama. Newallo is decent but she falls short of the emotional gravitas that Salcedo brings to the table. Veteran TT actor Michael Cherrie also appears in the film and delivers another great performance. Seriously, the man is so good it is ridiculous.
The plot is straightforward with some layers and avoids cliche. The conclusion, which I will not spoil, was also very well done. And in conclusion (of this review, not the short) the experience of the film, with its lovely shots and relatable characters, is quite refreshing, like opening your window in the morning and letting that first cool breeze wash over you. At TTFF 2019 Sampson’s Heart picked up the People’s Choice Award for Best Short and the people chose very well. Do follow the Sampson’s Heart Facebook page here to find out when and where you next catch this beautiful short.
RATING: 4.25/5 country gardens
For my review of three shorts from TTFF 2018, Live Bait, The Deliverer and Mangroves, you can click here.
Julien Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel but dreams of being Batman. Also loves creating board games and is an aspiring Caribbean sci-fi author. Says things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce.”