In Review: ‘Waving’ by Rolfin Nyhus & Steven Brumwell

It is thought 1 in 50 people may suffer with OCD. And that figure is expected to actually be higher due to the shame people can feel about opening up. The whole team behind ‘Waving’ are keenly aware of the difficulties some may have reading this article and watching the film. Executive producer Catherine Benfield has worked on putting together a series of free resources on her Blog Taming Olivia which open up a further understanding of OCD and the realities of the condition.

‘Waving’ leans on a very fitting, surrealist thread as it explores some very hard truths about OCD and the terrifying compulsions which can render daily life almost impossible.

A desolate beach, a sign warning about “being cut off by incoming tides” and a deep and reverberating voiceover followed immediately by a cacophonous chorus of words open Rolfin Nyhus and Steven Brumwell’s ‘Waving’. Steven Brumwell, who co-wrote, directed and produced the short with Rolfin Nyhus, has poignantly taken direct experiences from his own battle with OCD and produced a film exploring what would happen if a sufferer approached the point of ultimate despair. What if the realities of the disease took someone away from their real life and forced them into a self-imposed exile? Steven has bravely been able to draw out some of those key destructive powers, and combined with Rolfin’s talents, brought us an only-too-real world of split lives, haunting and unfiltered dark thoughts. 

In the second sequence, we are viscerally dragged into a dystopian black mirror-esque nightmare setting with boarded windows and scrawls all over the walls of an abandoned house. An old-fashioned telephone and television house pleas from Charlie’s desperate family. The production design and mise-en-scène in ‘Waving’ screams with pain and serves to further emphasise Charlie’s suffering. This isn’t anywhere you would choose to live. It is a stark reflection of the reality for sufferers of OCD, who have no desire to be stuck living with their thoughts, and this forced self-exile is accentuated by the clever use of space. 

The casting in ‘Waving’ is highly commendable and deserves recognition all round. Ralph Ineson plays the haunted protagonist Charlie with depth and skill, while his wife and daughter’s desperation and love are conveyed equally well by Krissi Bohn and Emily Amoh. Charlie’s gaunt face and unkempt appearance accentuate the inner turmoil he lives through on a daily basis. Ralph expresses all the pain through his face, his expressions and a frenetic energy which holds his very physical performance. Offering a beacon of light at the very end of the film is Sophie Bould whose character is a welcome respite from the pain and suffering and allows us to take a small step back form the turmoil and be enveloped by the kindness and warmth of a stranger.

“Our Cruel Demons”, a phrase Charlie crudely scrawls on a wall of his prison, alongside “burden” and “worthless”, encapsulate everything screaming through his mind and reveal the depth of his self-hatred. ‘Waving’ does a commendable job at both internalising and externalising the realities of OCD through its visuals, sound design and an extremely detailed approach to every minute part of the film, which come together perfectly in the 16-minute run time. 

‘Waving’ leans on a very fitting, surrealist thread as it explores some very hard truths about OCD and the terrifying compulsions which can render daily life almost impossible. As with so many diseases, the suffering is under the surface and might be imperceivable to an outside observer. The ending of ‘Waving’ needs to be absorbed, as with the rest of the film. While doing nothing to negate the agony of the protagonist’s suffering, it seems to offer a scintilla of hope courtesy of a kind stranger. And where there is hope, there is life …

‘Waving’ will screen at Brighton Rocks Film Festival 20-25 June 2023.

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