Writers: Hugo André & Will Masheter
Director: Hugo André
The idea of concealing or indeed showcasing who we really are is at the heart of Makeup, written and directed by Hugo André, who also stars. This is a quiet, somewhat restrained examination of the fronts we put on and the secrets we choose to hide or unveil while also exploring the idea of acceptance. Sacha (André) is a former chef who has exchanged preparing food for writing about it. Arriving in London, the restaurant critic is deposited in the wrong location by his taxi driver. Alone in a foreign city, Sacha is about to enter uncharted waters in more ways than one.
At his lodgings Sacha meets the owner of the property, Dan (Will Masheter, who also co-writes). He exudes a laddish confidence completely at odds with Sacha’s subdued personality. A stockbroker in the city, Dan knows how to talk the talk and walk the walk and appears comfortable in his own skin. We soon learn that this is not entirely the case. The suit and tie are the obligatory costume, but Dan is more at home in a skirt and stilettos.
Living in such proximity, it is inevitably only a matter of time before Sacha stumbles across Dan when he is dressed as his alter-ego. Dan is open and honest with him and while Sacha does not react badly, he is consumed by shock, having clearly never encountered a cross-dresser before.
Once he clocks out of the office, Dan ditches the suit and performs cabaret. When he is spotted by colleagues who video what turns out to be a disastrous show, it’s only a matter of time before the office become aware of his double life. With his secret exposed, Dan loses his job but despite this he refuses to pretend to be anything other than who he is.
Loneliness and isolation permeate throughout this layered picture. Caring about what people think and hiding our true selves have all been depicted on screen countless times, as has cross-dressing. This is by no means a unique story or even an innovative take on well-trodden ground. In some ways it even feels a tad archaic. After all, attitudes towards gender identification have developed considerably in recent times, as has a more general acceptance of people’s proclivities. That said, hate and intolerance sadly still exist, and Makeup effectively reminds us that although progress has been made, there is still a great deal of venom spouted towards those who do not adhere to stereotypical norms.
We can see Dan doesn’t truly fit in with his arrogant and obnoxious work colleagues. He plays along but we detect via his facial expressions and body language that he is repulsed by the company he is forced to keep. Sacha also comes to the realisation that his friends are bigoted and narrow-minded and it’s reassuring to see him defend Dan and usher them out of his home in one particularly memorable scene. The two actors offer detailed, intricate and honest performances and contrast incredibly well.
The overall message is of accepting and embracing who we really are. While the intentions are of course commendable, the film takes too long to gather momentum and our attention wanes far too frequently. More could have been excavated from such subject matter. Some will enjoy the ending, while others will find it jarring and even unnecessary. Makeup might paint a relatively interesting picture, but it unfortunately fails to leave a long-lingering impression.
Makeup will be available on Digital Download from 26th June.