“Balcony” by Toby Fell Holden

‘Balcony’ is the brutal and devastating short film by director Toby Fell Holden, telling the story of two teenage girls caught up in a gritty, modern day fairy-tale that unexpectedly twists and turns until reaching its disastrous climax. The film opens with us gazing up at the balcony on a London estate through the eyes of Tina, a violent and lonely teenager, infatuated with a newly arrived girl from Afghanistan. From the very beginning, there is a tangible sense of foreboding, addressed in Tina’s dooming commentary, that this story is not going the end well for Dana, the subject of her deep fascination.

The biggest success of Holden’s film is that is makes us question the stereotypes that we ourselves project upon other people. Through Tina’s deceptive storytelling, we see a collective narrative of how many people also might fabricate the life of an immigrant teenage girl, living with just her moody, controlling father. Bullied at school and rarely leaving her home, there is a lot of room for speculating what goes on behind closed doors. ‘Folks tend to fill in with their imagination’, Tina tells us. This is all the more poignant as it is extremely socially relevant in the UK at the moment, so it’s not hard to imagine these events unfolding in real life.

Throughout the film, we are always trying to guess whether what we see is the truth, or in fact the imagination of Tina and the others on the estate. ‘Balcony’ cleverly draws us into this confusing plot with the intense narration and close up shots of the events taking place, giving the whole film a claustrophobic and foreboding atmosphere. This gives us a clue that all may not be as it seems and invites us to make our own assumptions about what is going on, rather than relying on what is presented.

‘Balcony’ ends as it starts, with Tina’s damning words repeated and finally making sense in unexpected and horrifying ways. This film takes you on a whirlwind journey into this tragic story of two teenagers from very different backgrounds and very different lives that collide in a skilfully crafted movie.

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