Writer/director Blake Ridder’s feature debut is a tense drama that builds to a shocking crescendo.
We’re introduced to Grace (Emily Redpath) as her long-distance boyfriend is splitting up with her because she won’t drop everything and get on a plane to see him the following day. It’s not something she can do as she’s in the middle of studying to be a forensic scientist. It’s just one of the controlling aspects we can encounter in a relationship that is shown during the course of the film. Consider it a trigger warning, if you will. Grace decides to visit her friend Liv (Sarah Alexandra Marks), who she hasn’t seen much since she moved in with her boyfriend Edward (Louis James). It’s his birthday, so she assumes it’ll all be fun and games. As soon as she gets there, she notices a strange atmosphere. Their neighbour, David (Ridder), is an awkward, possibly mentally challenged guy who tries to warn Grace about something and has a tendency to spy on the house from the garden. During the time Grace stays, there are some startling revelations.
Ridder’s film gets under the skin of abuse in relationships, and can be tough viewing at times. The flashback sequences fill in the story gaps and allow the audience to make assumptions and delve deeper into the trio’s relationship together than the verbal exposition ever could. While some of the dialogue can be a little too much on-the-nose, there are several plot twists that genuinely come as a surprise. The awkwardness of being a guest in a house in which something is bubbling is portrayed perfectly, allowing for brilliant outbursts of arguing and violence.
Help plays well as a melodrama, but also has enough going for it to recommend to fans of psychological thrillers. Considering it was made during lockdown, it’s a fantastic achievement. You can check out director Blake Ridder’s short films on his YouTube channel.