Leap Of Faith

UK (2015) Dir. Dominic Ryan

Time to indulge once again in the cinematic underworld that is the UK independent scene with the third short film from the very busy actor-writer-producer-director Dominic Ryan.

Leap Of Faith is straightforward tale of not letting negative circumstances get you down and finding that catalyst to spiritual freedom in order to move forward again. I’ve probably made it sound terribly pretentious but it actually isn’t – far from it, as the cheeky opening demonstrates.

We meet our protagonists Mark (Ryan) and Marie (Billie Vee) in a pub drinking water as that is all Mark’s budget will allow after having his wallet stolen, on top of losing his job, his home and his girlfriend. He is now sleeping in a hostel where he met Marie. Discussing Mark’s woes Marie is capriciously frank in her inference of why Mark’s girlfriend left him, her ribald sense of humour not entirely appreciated.

Even before Marie reveals that she was once in the same boat as Mark, quitting a nine to five (and beyond) job to become a street painter, we can tell she is a carefree and impulsive woman who may as well have carpe diem tattooed on her forehead, a complete contrast to Mark and his organised life of plans, goals and schedules. With a glint in her eye, it appears Marie may have the perfect solution for Mark.

No, they didn’t go “there” but they did end up in a serene and idyllic countryside full of pastoral wonder and ethereal warmth. The location is actually Wales so credit to Ryan and his regular DOP Rory Skeoch for producing a very enticing travelogue for Welsh neighbours. With no timetable, external influences or distractions or even a set destination, the pair take a peaceful walk into the calming arms of Mother Nature for a reflective and ultimately cathartic journey of self-discovery.

Again, this probably reads like being a tale of didactic self-indulgence but Ryan’s script is an exercise in simplicity, allowing the images to tell the tale while limiting the dialogue to mostly exposition. The comparatively perfunctory thirteen-minute run time is more than sufficient to convey the message Ryan wishes to share and had it been longer or even a feature film, it no doubt would have descended into a conventional drama with a teased romance and forced crisis anyway. In this case brevity very much is the key.

This may be Ryan’s third film as writer-director but in those three films he has shown he is not one for limiting himself to one genre or style. His first, the taut thriller Stockholm is a brooding tale of revenge while the follow up, last year’s The Christmas Party, is a cheeky comedy which couldn’t have been more different. Leap Of Faith again breaks new ground for Ryan, although it is an older project. This labour of love has been simmering in the background while Ryan concentrated on acting and writing, gaining the necessary experience to bring his baby to life and do it justice in the process.

It’s fair to say he did and that passion shows on screen, probably more so in the visuals. That is not to knock the performances but for a low budget indie film it looks stunning as anything seen in professional movies. The sun kissed skies, the gentle breeze on the grass, the glistening of the running water are all captured in their spectacular glory; the final shot of the pair wandering into the distance is given a whimsical, almost romantic aura by a touch of subtle lens flare (note to J.J Abrams I said “subtle”).

The key scene is the moment where Mark has his epiphany, swimming with Marie in the pool by a majestic waterfall. A cliché perhaps but one that works in this context, as waterfalls in some religions and cultures are considered gateways to another world; in this case it represents Mark leaving his staid old life behind in favour of a new and fulfilling one.

As a two hander there is little room for competition on the acting front and indeed the feeling here is that both actors are fully focused on creating a convincing chemistry than aiming for an Oscar. Ryan has proven his versatility in many short films and adverts, able to do straight and comedy; here he is reflective and uncertain, matching his “everyman” appearance. He makes Mark sympathetic by not being self-pitying but merely temporarily floored at his current run of bad luck.

Billy Vee is a beguiling and confident performer with a captivating screen presence. She can play both the vamp and the ordinary woman and in a very tenuous sense, one can see elements of both in her vivacious essaying of Marie. As a Greek born actress however her accent on occasion obscures the pronunciation of certain words, but this I’m sure can be remedied with a bit of elocution practice, otherwise Vee was very much the perfect choice to play Mark’s motivational mentor.

Production wise this is a very professional looking film and the choice of acoustic soundtrack adds so much to the wistful and relaxed atmosphere of the rural locations. The only noticeable cavils are that the quieter lines of dialogue are often too quiet and the end credits go by too quickly. So, if you are one of the many people who contributed to the film’s funding, don’t blink as you may miss your name!

I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Leap of Faith is a partially autobiographical tale, so palpable is the heart and passion it exudes. A charming and evocative film that offers inspiration to the least of us.