Faulty Roots – Short Film – Film Review

Faulty Roots is an intriguing title for a debut film and it is only until half way through the film that its genesis is revealed. Given that the film is only 11 minutes long this is not a significant amount of time to be patient and so in the interim there is equally an exploration of the glorious kaleidoscope of colours within Faulty Roots. Reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel and the excellent Pin Cushion with the bright array of colours, there are vivid pinks, yellows and candy stripes, the colourful palette belies the serious subject matter of Faulty Roots.

Within its short length, Faulty Roots depicts the inner turmoil encountered by teenagers suffering from mental health conditions. Lola is the protagonist, played by actor-director Ella Greenwood with sensitivity and maturity, who dreams of travelling. Lola’s relationship with her mother appears terse through initial discussions in a sterile, white kitchen but there are hues of pink contained to convey that apparent warmth within the mother-daughter environment. Lola’s mother, perhaps out of concern for her wellbeing, as it is hinted that there may be some underlying issues, suggests that Lola visits her school friend Zack during the school holidays. Zack, thoughtfully played by Sani Thabo, appears to be suffering from an incurable disease but in a reversal of fortune seems to be exuding a positive aura despite his situation.

Faulty Roots favours dialogue rather than a plot to the extent that it effectively feels like a theatrical performance and is therefore limited. However, it is by virtue of this dialogue that unchartered subject matters are tackled. It is not often that films depict honest conversations between teenagers discussing each other’s mental illnesses rationally and it is a refreshing approach for Greenwood to adopt.

Ella Greenwood and Sani Thabo in Faulty Roots
Ella Greenwood and Sani Thabo in Faulty Roots

Faulty Roots by virtue of that exposition provides us as the audience with the insights into the characters’ psyche and the stage of their conditions. It is a good device as often there is that lack of communication between adults and teenagers concerning mental health issues. Hopefully, Faulty Roots will provide that springboard for further conversations.

As for the title, this appears to relate to a reference by Zack to being ‘faulty’ as he believes that he has ‘faulty roots’ due to his condition. Whilst the film concentrates on dialogue there are effective camera angles employed and at moments we are essentially in the role of the voyeur observing Lola and her mother through an open kitchen door. Equally, in the bittersweet moments within Faulty Roots, the camera also assists to keep us as the audience at a respectful distance. However, the non-diegetic music enhances the poignancy in such emotional scenes.

There is a good interaction amongst the actors and this is a subtle, insightful directorial debut from Greenwood. Faulty Roots is a tale of innocence despite adversity and is surprisingly optimistic despite having a bleak premise. As a teenager herself, Greenwood mentions drawing upon personal experiences within the film, which lend a humane quality to Faulty Roots. As a result, I will certainly be interested to follow Greenwood’s next projects.

Faulty Roots poster
Faulty Roots poster

Faulty Roots was nominated for Best Script in the Film House competition and will also be submitted to various film festivals.

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