The Arrival tells the story of a woman coming to a life-changing decision. We first encounter Anna arriving in a small café, viewed through the smudged glass of the street door, which she left open as she walked in; through the glass we see, and faintly hear, her order a coffee with milk. This order sparks Anna’s inner monologue, which is by turns filled with doubt at her decision and courage in her conviction.
The film’s power comes from its deft pairing of a single tracking shot and an internal monologue (matched by excellent, mostly silent acting from Emily Barber) to bring the viewer inside Anna’s torment. Writer and director Daniel Montanarini heightens the tension to fever pitch at the movie’s midpoint, when Anna’s thinking tips over from one side to the other. Distracted from her train of thought by a baby offscreen, Anna pours milk into her coffee until her cup overflows. With her desire to have a baby similarly overflowing, we follow the camera closer towards Anna, deeper into her mind, as her train of thought (complete with the sound of wheels on rails, steam in the air, brakes hissing) arrives into its station. From this closeup, the camera slowly pans out again, revealing Anna back in her surroundings.
The Arrival, like Zen Design Studios’ earlier work All About Mothers (2016), makes the most of little details. The dirty door glass that initially keeps the viewer out; the slow re-lighting of the booth lamps behind, as Anna comes back out of her head; the different pitch of Anna’s voice, when she remembers “his eyes were blue”. Through masterful cinematography, this film brilliantly pulls the audience into one woman’s rich inner life. It shows how much can happen when we are waiting for something to happen.
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CAST: Emily Barber
DIRECTOR: Daniel Montanarini
WRITER: Daniel Montanarini
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: Alistair Little
EDITORS: Ben Hensor, Florentine Tudor
SYNOPSIS: Anna contemplates a big decision while waiting for someone in a café.