Keep Mum (2019) is a British film written and directed by Luana Di Pasquale, a short movie which chronicles the time period of a mum, played by Nadira Murray as she awakens from a nightmare, covered in blood and with a hazy recollection of what events may or may not have happened. Channelling an eighties vibe to the story, from the film title, a brush script font, influenced by another 80’s style noir Drive (2011) with similar typographic usage, Keep Mum takes the audience into a post shocking event scenario which slowly unwinds in the mind of a mother as she tries to piece together the events of the previous night and why she has blood on her clothes and a huge hangover. We, the audience, newly introduced to the story, which begins with a dark and slightly blurry image of a woman in the middle of some nocturnal digging in her garden. We wonder if she is a devoted gardener or if she is up to something more sinister, the revelations become more obvious and finally the traumatic truth is revealed at the climatic end of the film.
Spoiler alert: The film begins with Mum wandering in her garden, staggering as if drunk, brandishing a shovel. After her late night gardening, Mum returns to her house and begins to drink heavily all the while listening to loud rock music and a twinkling Christmas Tree in the background. She drinks herself to unconsciousness. The next morning, Mum awakens to a throbbing hangover and blood on her clothes, she has no idea how it happened, but the close ups reveal she knows more than she is letting onto the viewer. As Mum wanders the house, changes her clothes and decides to go out, her visible sanity is slowly eroding in front of the viewers eyes. Telling signs include her son Danny (Cameron Murray, Nadira Murray real life son) who appears several times to console her, though it is immediately obvious that she has conjured up her dead son as a way to console herself and her grief at losing him. ‘He does not blame her for his death, it was an accident’. The final third of the film gives us a retread of the beginning of the film, but this time we linger on a family photograph depicting Mum, Danny and her partner and we then track to near floor level and a pair of legs, covered in blood, by the fireplace and Mum in the foreground.
Di Pasquale uses variations on camera close ups, which adds that Sergio Leone feel to the scenes, there is so much one can read into peoples faces, with lingering close ups you can see in the protagonists’ eyes, how she is feeling, what she is feeling and her sanity being eroded away by what she discovers that has happened to her and the end results of her actions. The unravelling of Mums sanity mixes discussions with her dead son, locations where key events happened, the seashore, the back garden and interiors of the house where the Mum was a silent victim to horrific tragedies.
Di Pasquale has crafted a film which shows the extremes of domestic abuse without the linger camera images and the sometime end result of being pushed too far. Tense, horror/thriller tropes are being used here, to get the viewer hooked, but as the final scenes show, via a family photograph and the legs of a dead male body, this is no phantasmal horror film, but a true life horror story, one which echos throughout the globally. It is with a marked respect that Di Pasquale has fashioned a short film that delivers the human horrors with a layered intensity in such a limited time frame. Well worth a watch.
A kind thanks you to Luana Di Pasquale from @keepmumfilm for the opportunity to review her film. Keep an eye out for more of her movies.