Benedict Cumberbatch is a chameleon. There is nothing he cannot do, and Nick White’s short film Inseparable only further proves it. Cumberbatch plays two different characters, twins Charlie and Joe – two men opposite to each other. Inseparable was shot a few years before his big tribute in BBC’s Sherlock and other big box office hits, and perhaps my view of him today varies slightly from the views I had in 2007. Today’s viewer might thus be slightly more interested in Cumberbatch rather than the film, however I believe the combination of the two can leave anyone speechless. The story itself focuses on showing and not that much on telling, dialogue is minimal, yet visuals, music and sound play an incredibly vital role. It is told almost as a silent film, leaving some gaps for the audience to fill in – after all interpretation is the charm of short narratives.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Joe

An ordinary household. There is a lovely couple cuddling in the morning light and a child playing on the floor. We see the wife kissing her husband goodbye. But there is an indescribable sense of doom in the air, the audience cannot gasp it or pinpoint its source. Perhaps it’s the music, the sounds. Perhaps it’s her lingering hug – she does not want to let go. There is a doctor’s appointment, a brain scan, and eventually the doom is upon us. Upon them. He, Joe, is dying, and now he, Charlie will get a new chance in life. The emotion is in close-ups, in the soundtrack, in the lighting. We see Joe and Charlie from up close, and they look the same but are not. Very little is said, but the power is in the silences, as I said before. The identity swapping is slightly unexpected, yet logical. Joe goes home a healthy man, but he is not himself, because he is now Charlie. There is a spectrum of emotions running through Jean’s eyes – first happiness, then realisation, and then finally despair. Was it morally a right thing to do? I guess opinions vary on that matter, what’s good for the child might not be so for the wife. Is it fair? Definitely not. Will you want to cry after watching Inseparable? Definitely yes.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Charlie

Inseparable was shot just before digital cinema kicked in properly, and thus was filmed on 35 mm. Either way this was the best considering the aesthetics of the film. It’s lighting is relatively bright, which seems to contrast the mood. This type of lighting, however, benefits Nick White’s use of close-ups, which are used as a way of conveying emotion. I believe that the latter plays an absolutely fundamental role here, as the main focus is on human reactions and feelings – the crying, the despair, the acceptance. Inseparable underlines a very important human trait – our willingness to sacrifice for our family, our most loved ones. Joe is giving up spending his last moments with his family, and Charlie is willing to take on himself a life he has not experienced, so his brother’s son would not grow up without a father. Jean is giving up her last moments with her husband, she is willing to live with a man who is identical to her partner. But at the end of the day Charlie is not Joe. Or could he be? If you have not seen this thought evoking short film yet, you should. Even if it is just to remind yourself that Benedict Cumberbatch is not just Doctor Strange.

Natalie Press and Jean in Inseparable


Dir: Nick White

Scr: Matthew James Wilkinson

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Natalie Press, Dylan Byrne

Prd: Dominic Norris

DOP: Eric Maddison

Country: UK

Year: 2007

Runtime: 12 min