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Notes short film review | Film Reviews


★★★★

Directed by: Jimmy Olsson

Written by: Jimmy Olsson

Starring: Philip Oros, Moa Silen, Richard Sseruwagi

Film Review by: Patrick Foley

Notes (2021) film review

Notes movie poster

Notes movie poster

Given the last year and a half of quarantine, social distancing and zoom calls, Jimmy Olsson’s Notes feels like an extremely timely short film exploring how, in an environment of loneliness and isolation; music has the power to break down walls – almost

literally.

As he moves into a new flat, Philip (Philip Oros) relies on phone calls with his girlfriend and his piano to keep him company. When he practices a song, he discovers that his neighbour plays piano as well – and the pair bond with their music despite having never seen one another. When his relationship with his girlfriend is thrown into question, it is this musical dialogue with his neighbour that Philip comes to rely upon.

Notes is a powerful short film which puts the communicative power of music at its heart. Philip’s isolation in his apartment is only exacerbated by his attempts to bond with people through words alone. His experiences with his girlfriend and his landlady (Moa Silen) are awkward, and despite a friendly disposition, it is clear when he experiences a personal setback that he is struggling underneath. It is through music that he connects with his neighbour, music how he expresses his pain, and through music how he becomes reachable at his lowest point. The sense that our personal thoughts and feelings impact on our art is profoundly felt and expertly presented by the filmmakers.

The film treats its audience with respect and smartly ‘shows-not-tells’. The plot is hardly complex, yet it is told gently and subtly throughout – so that when pivotal moments arise (such as Philip’s breakdown), they stand out all the more. Small touches towards this, such as his social awkwardness, or his girlfriend’s apathy, tell us all we need to know. The result is an intimately personal story which places the focus on the protagonist, and ties the audience fully into his emotional state.

The nature of the story means that the film is a slow burner and audiences should be prepared for long and solemn scenes of introspection. Philip’s introverted personality means viewers must be prepared to decode the meaning behind what is seen and said on screen – and this does occasionally result in the film dragging, even considering its short runtime. However when the story kicks into gear, emotional hell breaks loose and viewers will be hooked by Philip Oros’ riveting acting display as the film heads towards an emotional conclusion. This investment into the personality of the characters is worth it for the finale alone, and the musical montages between Philip and his neighbour make up for any drag.

Praise should be specially reserved for the fantastic sound design and production which gives added life to the music which is so key to the film. Small touches, such as the transition of the neighbour’s playing from a source external of Philip’s apartment to seemingly internal – really complete the film and demonstrate how the music is finding Philip even in his isolation and despair. Audiences will feel every indent of the keys as souls are laid bare vicariously through the piano – letting the film live up to its title.

Short and bittersweet, Notes brilliantly captures how essential music can be for human connection with a stylistic approach that amplifies personality. Subtle touches, and outstanding sound design make this film memorable and moving.

#PatrickFoley

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