Albert (David Sillars) is an ageing and eccentric painter who agrees to help a friend’s troubled grandson Ben (Jonathan Leslie). When they meet it becomes clear to Albert that Ben has spiralled into depression due to issues he’s having with his boyfriend so the two start arranging therapy sessions. As they grow closer, the two men start to reveal more about themselves to one another as Ben tries to deal with the root cause of his issues.
Seat in Shadow is the feature film debut from Henry Coombes and it was co-written with Sillars, who plays Albert in the movie. It’s an unusual little film that starts with an intriguing premise but never really delivers on it. Much of the film takes place in Albert’s flat where he holds his counselling sessions with Ben. The two characters are an odd match and to be honest it’s baffling why Ben’s grandmother would even entertain the idea of getting Albert to help her grandson as he hardly seems capable of looking after himself.
Once you look past the unlikely set-up, it’s clear that Coombes set out to do something artistic and a bit different with Seat in Shadow. For me, the film doesn’t quite work often allowing Albert to go off into long-winded monologues that are much more for style than for substance. The underlying cause of Ben’s depression is barely scratched during the film’s run time and the film’s second half definitely started to lose my interest.
Part of the problem is the performance of Leslie as Ben. Whereas Sillars is larger than live, and probably in all honesty a bit OTT, Leslie fails to bring much of anything to the character of Ben. His acting is surface deep and there’s no real exploration of his character. He certainly pales in comparison to Sillars when they’re on screen together and that’s problematic when Ben should be the heart and soul of the story.
I also felt it unnecessary to create lust on the part of Albert for Ben. It made an already odd situation seem a little bit ickier and it doesn’t add a whole lot to the film. If anything it distracts from what the film is trying to achieve and that’s a real shame.
Seat in Shadow is certainly an acquired taste but it’s also a film that seems to feel like it’s offering more than it does. There’s definitely a case of style over substance here, disguised with wordy dialogue and random narrative turns. If the film had dug deeper into its core theme, it would have benefited greatly and a more capable actor playing Ben would have elevated it further.
Cast: David Sillars, Jonathan Leslie, Lee Partridge Director: Henry Coombes Writers: Henry Coombes and David Sillars Certificate: 15 Duration: 81 mins Released by: Peccadillo Pictures Release date: 25th September 2017