We have all been here at this phase – a phase where every decision is marked as incorrect. It’s also a period that teaches us to find our own pathways when things go sideways. A friend and a foe, the coming-of-age period pushes us to leave our comfort zone to face the real world. In Thisen Umagiliya’s latest short film, Distance (2023), the coming-of-age period is seen through Tharini with a quest for a revolution.
Words don’t matter for Tharini as her form of silence is mysteriously louder than words. We witness her being trapped in a controlled environment where her father is unhappy with her decision-making process. Her interest in acting comes across as a major setback for her father, who secretly detests her career choice. Additionally, the adverse aura surrounding her living environment and the inflation rate of her country pushes her mind to step out of her confined life.
Director Thisen’s 2019 short film ‘Catharsis’ also dealt with an individual hoping to find a solution out of his trapped world. However, Distance takes a higher step to venture into the feministic growth of modern women, being ambitious to break the barriers of life. As far as secrets are concerned, Tharini has a role model whom she adores above everything else. She attends a night party in the city clubbing spot where she stumbles onto the girl of her dreams. Viewers are introduced to Sasha, a celebrity who is outspoken, flamboyant, and blunt with her thoughts. Sasha seems to be the answer to what Tharini lacks, more like her alter ego.
One thing to note at this point is the varied color palette used to evoke meaning with the viewers. Colourist Dinindu Jagoda uses an enigmatic form of magical realism to transport us into a dream-like world filled with light flickers and chromatic spectrums. The fog that should emerge from wandering dreams is replaced with polka-dot rays of different frequencies. The cinematography here reminds us of a milder version of the 2016 horror film ‘The Neon Demon’ by Nicolas Winding Refn. Both films use color reflection as a tool to portray a mysterious form of darkness.
While Tharini and Sasha decide to leave the party, an epiphany starts to emerge. The splendor of imagination opens its door within the dream. The fine line between imagination and reality gets tested through the screenplay of the film. Director Thisen lures the viewers to witness the manifestation of the thinking process, which transforms into physical characters. It’s more like a symbolic take on ‘desires versus absoluteness’ or ‘invasion versus evolution’ between two opposite characters. Dhiyana Silva, who plays Tharini, somehow portrays a female version of Charlie from the 2012 film “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky. Tharini’s shyness matches seamlessly with Charlie’s restrained body language of being in the bubble of their own comfort. On the other hand, Luna Hug-Castro, who plays Sasha, naturally adds the dominating cling towards Tharini through her performance.
From another standpoint, the intense connection between Tharini and Sasha points to the idealism of love. Sasha represents a mystical love letter that is able to voice out Tharini’s inner desires openly. The lack of freedom of choice within Tharini has distressed her to wage a battle against her depression and loneliness. Facing the negativity of male dominance from her father has eliminated every form of affection through family bonding. Tharini’s compulsion to receive admiration or validation goes to the peak with the addition of puberty as well.
With a runtime of 20 minutes, Distance allows viewers to experience the transition of an ambitious teenage girl who wants to enjoy the liberty of freedom. The distance has altered Tharini’s focus and direction to lead her life her way. It could be due to the distance from home that Tharini chose to leave when she moved to the city. It could be due to the distance that her father maintained through his masculism. Yet, the actual distance that needs to be acknowledged here is the distance that Tharini had set in the past to face her true identity. Tharini’s statement of “A Hopeless Dream” is more expensive than it sounds.
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Distance (2023) Short Film Links: IMDb
Distance (2023) Short Film Cast: Dhiyana Silva, Luna Hug-Castro, Shyam Fernando