WATCH THE TRAILER HERE
WATCH THE FILM HERE
First, the Recap:
Will it ever be easy to bear the load within our hearts, minds, even our entire being, when it comes to those we’ve so deeply loved being taken from us? How much more does one feel the weight of sorrow when the loss is unanticipated, and hence a close companion, so readily there for us, is no longer? How do we cope? For a young girl named Bella (Lauren Carver), this heartache and ongoing sense of internal mourning is all too real when she tragically loses her sister Maddy (Olivia Maiden). Thinking herself to blame for the circumstance that lead to it, Bella sinks into a depressive state, shutting out everyone around her completely.
Yet, in the midst of this isolation, Bella finds her only comfort via conversations she has in her mind with Maddy and attempting to maintain her departed sister’s “presence” in the family’s home. As the days continue to pass, it seems no one, including Bella’s Mom (Susie Maiden) and step-father (Andy Deluca), can break through the haze of inner pain Bella’s battling as she continues to push them away. Efforts by her younger sister Flo (Megan Hughes), step-sister Skye (Kimberly Shopland), and best friend Jessie (Abby Sparrow) also seem to fail as well, even though they all make sure to consistently remind Bella she is loved, needed, missed, and most importantly, able to move on. But, is she actually the only one that needs to?
Next, my Mind:
At 15-years old, there are a lot of elements in life that have yet to be discovered, explored, lived out, learned from, and grown into. Yet, with this 23-minute indie short film project that marks her first time in the Big Chair, writer/director/actress Olivia Maiden delivers a truly mature effort. Addressing the common but always potent and relevant thematic components such as the weight of loss, the crippling nature of depression and self-blame, the seclusion of soul, and separation from others, the narrative doesn’t pull any punches with these ideas being put in the forefront. However, ultimately, it all finds a way to instill the needed undercurrents of hope, unyielding love, a willingness to relinquish the hurt while preserving the best recollections of those who’ve departed, and being settled with the realization life can continue onward.
What I additionally felt served this film well is that given the nature of Bella’s plight and her subsequent “conversations” with Maddy, it almost carried a supernatural bent to it which really suited the story, especially given it’s hauntingly impactful finale and the additional facet to the tale it introduces. The cinematography is solid throughout, some transitions from scene to scene were just a little abrupt, there was what appeared to be brief editing snafus here and there, but it wasn’t anything that took away from the viewing experience. The music score from Jonathan Chambers was apropos to the subject matter as well. Sometimes I felt a mild disconnect from what I desired to be a deeply moving, soul-stirring resonance throughout the entire story, but that was fully restored via the end credit song “Never Alone” by Jesse Bonanno.
Having to take the literal age of many actors involved here into consideration, I can honestly say I was pleasantly surprised and can give credit where credit is due. Carver delivers a really fine performance as Bella, a girl having to deal directly with not just the anguish of losing her beloved sister, but shouldering what she has determined is responsibility for what caused it. Totally defeated in spirit and refusing to let her family or best friend in, the only solace is the shade of Maddy herself, even if only in Bella’s mind. Watching as Bella slowly begin to fade further and further away from those in the here and now that have care and concern for her, the journey to the release that’s needed is well enacted by Carver. There’s a good overall believability to the character, though there were a few times where, no matter the actor’s age, I might have looked for just a little more emotive connection to be present.
Maiden herself, while integral to the story, actually plays Maddy intentionally subdued, mainly being that ever-present, lingering manifestation of Bella’s distress, portraying the same sense of loss her living sister does. But, there is a lot more being said here in the expressions and body language Maddy shows, too, which acts as a catalyst to try and heighten the gravity of what could really be construed as a shared grief felt by both of them, even if one of them is only in the imagination. Maiden embodies this all well. Supporting turns come from Hughes as Bella’s heartbreakingly longsuffering sister Flo, Shopland as Bella’s step-sister Skye, whose initial attempts to integrate into the family causes Bella distraught hesitations, and Sparrow as Bella’s longtime best friend Jessie, who so desperately misses her pal and strives to get her back. There’s a connected bond between them all, and it shows.
Additional turns are presented from Susie Maiden and Andy Deluca as Bella’s Mom and step-dad whose loving concern for Bella was touching as it should be, and a pivotal appearance by Velton Lishke in a key role that adds seriously affecting closing moments to events. In total, “Never Alone” is a finely crafted directorial debut for 15-year old Maiden and certainly offers promise of what else this talented young filmmaker has to offer up while giving us a story about us letting go of lost loved ones–but also perhaps them needing to let go of us?
As always, this is all for your consideration and comment. Until next time, thank you for reading!