Joey, an image-conscious 22 year-old student swept up in a new city begins to fall into an addiction of drugs to repress his inner demons. A provocative and short film that challenges the social construct of masculinity and brings light to one of the darkest issues that face the gay community.
One of the lasting impressions of writer/director Gage Oxley’s social drama is one of total fearlessness. The refusal to turn away from the severe consequences of repressing your true identity for fear of judgement turns this short film into an experience that won’t soon leave you. Continuing Oxley’s efforts to address, mental health, drug use and issues within the LGBTQ community, This World We Live In follows Joey (Jack Parr) a seemingly prototypical guy’s guy, as he struggles to maintain his perfect outward image while containing unchecked sexual desires.
Having made large strides forward in pushing back bigotry towards the LGBTQ community, it is easy to forget that the work of acceptance is not yet done. Stigmas remain ever present and the impulse to hide oneself behind the veneer of an image we think society wants to see is still a chilling spectre in the lives of many young gay people. Oxley chooses to focus this story on the moment when that hidden and suppressed nature, desperate for air and fulfilment, finally explodes in a blaze of rash decisions that threatens to eviscerate Joey’s perfectly constructed public life.
Isolation is the key theme throughout this film, established early on by Parr’s resigned voiceover. His delivery strikes a perfect balance of numbness hiding a desperation to scream his inner thoughts and proclaim his demons to someone – anyone, but knowing he will never be able to. Rather than being a crutch to carry the weight of all of the story’s character building, listening to Joey’s inner confessions turns the audience into the understanding ears the Joey needs but does not have, ultimately making them helpless bystanders to his disintegration.
The theme of isolation is underscored by moments of striking photography from DP Matthew Tingle, particularly during the opening shot of Joey in the football changing room, facing the camera with the rest of the room and his teammates out of focus behind him. Tingle also shines when creating the otherworldly mix of colours and darkness used to define a party that Joey fatefully finds himself at the centre of.
An original score and original songs by Emma Bloodgood and Tilly Fallows perfectly compliment the haunting and forlorn tone of the film. Oxley wisely uses this to contrast the numerous scenes of what should be excitement, levity or triumph. More than simply setting the emotional tone of a scene, the film’s music acts as a foil to remind the audience that all of the gifts and advantages at Joey’s disposal mean nothing if they are only used in service of a false life. Bloodgood and Fallows ultimately succeed in underlining the tragedy of being unable to extract even a moments joy from what should be a perfect life.
The jewel in this short film’s crown, however, is Jack Parr’s performance as the tormented protagonist. Aside from the voice over, much of Parr’s performance is given without dialogue, leaving him with the unenviable task of communicating hidden turmoil almost entirely with a glance or stolen moment. Without question, the success or failure of the film rests on Parr’s shoulders, and to his credit, he throws himself into moments that are extremely difficult to execute and almost equally difficult to watch. We buy his loneliness, his desire to live honestly but his need to stay hidden, his frantic breakdown and the roots of his pain.
There is strong sexual imagery and drug use and some may debate whether or not it is necessary. Make no mistake, this is not an easy film to watch and perhaps it shouldn’t be. The degree to which many of us can make critical errors when consumed by the pressures of constant deception are laid bare, right alongside the danger of living with the feeling that no one can or will understand what you desperately need to say. This World We Live In is about what can happen when you feel forced to live your life in solitary confinement and despite some of its more flamboyant depictions, Oxley keeps the thematic storytelling relatable and its message and importance is not lost on us.
Fearless filmmaking can be a double-edged sword, even with short films. The power to make an impact goes hand in hand with the ability to provoke or shock. It takes filmmakers of considerable skill and focus to wield that sword in a way that enlightens audiences and inspires debate. With this film, Gage Oxley shows that he is becoming one such filmmaker by giving us an emotionally charged character drama that will still be on your mind long after the credits have rolled.
A brave story told in fine form, This World We Live In is certainly a worthy addition to your short film watchlist.
Find out more about This World We Live In and Oxygen Films