‘We Were All Underwater’ – All These Creatures (Short Film Review)

Rating:

With All These Creatures, Charles Williams tells a story of a young boy who is trying to make sense of his memories of a mysterious infestation at his family home, the mental unravelling of his father, and the little creatures that live inside of us all. He says that ‘with All These Creatures I wanted to immerse an audience in this story of someone trying to understand a parent and the damage caused – were they ‘bad’ or ill or a victim themselves – and, in the process, questioning their own potentially unreliable experience of the world. Even if there are tragic consequences, can we have compassion for their struggle – and our own?’

The director searched through about 400 young boys and girls to find the right soul to inhabit the complex lead role – one that would have the right mixture of maturity and innocence that would transcend visually. After discovering the twelve year old Yared Scott, Williams rewrote the film around him. Scott has Ethiopian Australian heritage, and Williams took on four advisors from the local Ethiopian Australian community to ensure the story’s depiction was accurate to their culture. The diverse cast also includes Mandela Mathia who portrays Mal, the father. He was a refugee to Australia in 2009 and has now graduated NIDA, the country’s most esteemed acting school, and brings an extraordinary depth and compassion to the sensitive role.

Williams makes extensive, but effective, use of voiceover – we can hear the young protagonist’s, Tempest’s (his name, I might add, is also significant as it seems to refer to Shakespeare’s play The Tempest that also grapples with the themes of the soul; it could also refer to Aimé Césaire’s A Tempest that adapts Shakespeare’s work from a postcolonial perspective thus foregrounding race and power), inner monologue throughout where he explains the strange infestation of his home as many different bugs and creatures have settled in their garden and house; and how this appears to be connected to the unravelling of his father who becomes odd and distant, at times disappearing for days. The boy tries to understand whether the two were truly connected, or if it merely appeared so. The short film is scarce in dialog and depends on the characters’ facial expressions in addition to the voiceover.

All things considered, the film is utterly beautiful. The cinematography works hand in hand with the voiceover to poetically pace the film. The metaphoric parallel created between an infestation of a house and of a brain is thought provoking to say the least. All These Creatures will leave you pondering over the accuracy of our childhood memories, and how to tell apart the illness from the person, and from ourselves. All These Creatures has won many prestigious awards, such as The Short Film Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and Best Australian Short Film at Melbourne Film Festival this year.

Dir: Charles Williams

Scr: Charles Williams

Cast: Yared Scott, Melody Demessie, Helen Hailu, Mandela Mathia

Prd: Elise Trenorden, Charles Williams

Music: Chiara Costanza

DOP: Adric Watson

Runtime: 13 minutes