Writer and Director: Richard Weston
People are not always who we think they are, and the truth can come to light in surprising and unexpected ways. Richard Weston’s latest short, Nocturne, picks up on some of the themes of his previous film, The Burying Party, by using the same tight psychological focus to look at memory, loss and the process of grief as a widower discovers he barely knew his wife at all.
Left alone following the death of his wife Martin recalls key moments in his marriage to poet Claire and her sudden illness. But when sorting through her effects, Martin discovers a series of love letters from the mysterious Alex that casts a different light on their relationship and take him to the pub where he has a number of surprising encounters.
A maker of sensitive, poetic films, Weston’s approach successfully eschews sentimentality to present a complex impression of a marriage and its aftermath. While the events themselves may be tragic, framed by the experience of cancer and betrayal, Nocturne is movingly staged, using the memory of the couple playing the piano together and its recurring music throughout to give the film an elegiac quality.
Particularly interesting are the notes of discord that Weston includes from the start; this was not a happy and successful partnership, so part of Martin’s grief is bound-up with guilt and regret about the unresolved tension between them. It is a valuable angle that avoids mawkishness and prevents Nocturne from becoming too corny as Martin must instead re-evaluate his experiences.
Like The Burying Party, Weston retains a close focus on Martin’s point of view, using several cutting and shot selection techniques to elucidate his state of mind that help to create both intimacy with the audience and empathy for his changing predicament. The fluid movement between past and future is particularly successful, using music and performance to create waves of change and emotion within the narrative.
Yet Nocturne also balances its weightier themes with a degree of comedy as Martin encounters a drunk pharmaceutical company rep in the pub (David Menken) who crashes into his privacy, tone deaf to social cues – not to mention noting how wistful we all are for pub and café encounters right now. The character is also seen later harassing another customer as he becomes increasingly intoxicated, giving the film a wider perspective that forces Martin back into the world to a degree.
Although his attentions are distracted by being writer and director, Weston also turns in a sympathetic and credible performance as Martin, often silently conveying his troubled interior life, lost in trying to piece together and reconcile this new perspective on his marriage. Augusta Woods conveys Claire’s anger and quiet resolve while Eva-Marie Kung is suitably cool and alluring as David’s second conversation of the night.
At only 24 minutes long Nocturne is full of storytelling and reflection on our ability to truly know and understand other people. There is too little time to delve into character reasoning or even the consequences of the events we see, but as a snapshot of grief and confusion it is compelling.