For a film shot during a global pandemic with a very small crew and schedule, HELP is an impressively strong thriller that draws you in to its world of false idyll.
Set in the British countryside, HELP follows the story of a young girl, Grace (Emily Redpath), whose life takes a sudden turn as her long-distance relationship breaks down. She seeks solace in her childhood friend Liv (Sarah Alexandra Marks), arriving at the start of the film at Liv’s isolated and modern house where she lives with her long-term boyfriend Ed (Louis James) and his dog Polly. The film may appear slow at the start—but what is a thriller film without a slow-burn build-up? It’s clear that Ridder prioritizes elements such as cinematography and sound in his work, as we are less focused on the dialogue between the trio but instead on the ambiguity and tension of the house and its surroundings.
An important part of the film, like most thrillers, is the unique peculiarities of each character. Apart from Grace, our protagonist, everyone seems to be acting a little bit odd, from the neighbour who pops up in the garden every so often to stare into the house, to the nasty remarks and odd looks given to Grace by Ed. There is an overwhelming air of uneasiness and, as the film uncovers the lies of the trio one by one, it becomes clear that HELP is an atmospheric tale of distrust and misjudgment. No one is who they claim to be. Tensions rise and drama unfolds as the truth becomes misted and lost whilst the narrative plays out, revealing secrets that the characters wished had been best left uncovered.
While watching HELP, it was the beautiful shots and camerawork that stood out to me the most. From stunning wide shots delving deep into the peaceful yet unnerving landscape to dizzying rotating shots, Ridder twists the ‘normal’ setting with disconcerting directorial techniques. The film plays upon the thriller genre in a way that I have not personally seen before, uncovering more through the image than expository dialogue. While the acting is reasonably strong, it is Ridders’ camerawork that draws you into Grace’s world, which seems to be unraveling.
Although the film is a strong piece by Ridder and the team, it does feel as though something is missing. Its runtime is the perfect length to uncover the truths of the tale whilst keeping your attention, yet the point of climax in the narrative appears to be over before it has even happened. It’s true that thrillers often reconcile their narratives in the last 20 minutes of the film, but in the case of HELP it leaves you wanting more explanations to the character choices and motivations. The film does a solid job at exploring the issues and struggles of society, with storylines of domestic abuse and relationship breakdown overlaying elements of the story. However, this is somewhat sidelined by the unrealistic elements.
“Everyone has a secret” is the film’s tagline, and in the case of HELP, it appears more like everyone has multiple secrets. The film draws upon the classic tropes of the thriller film, encouraging the audience to become lost in the picturesque landscape before slowly uncovering the realities of this seemingly normal trio of friends. There’s even a little cameo from Blue’s Duncan James in there, for some reason, which really adds nothing to the film but some star value. Considering Ridder shot the film over the course of 12 days in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, HELP proves his directorial talent in producing a film that maintains your intrigue throughout.
HELP is set for release in Summer 2021.
Words by Katie Evans
Support The Indiependent
We’re trying to raise £200 a month to help cover our operational costs. This includes our ‘Writer of the Month’ awards, where we recognise the amazing work produced by our contributor team. If you’ve enjoyed reading our site, we’d really appreciate it if you could donate to The Indiependent. Whether you can give £1 or £10, you’d be making a huge difference to our small team.