“A picture says a thousand words.” So goes the age-old saying. Yet what can a limit of 160 characters achieve? Victoria Mapplebeck’s minimalist, taut and frankly extraordinary short film answers that question with unexpected power.
In 160 Characters the director relives the ups and downs of her relationship with an ex, retold through old messages stored within a dormant Nokia. There’s obvious interest from the concept itself, but it’s Mapplebeck’s touches that elevate this to a higher level. Light touches such as the changes in sign-offs in texts, which highlight how the relationship has changed. It’s clever, wise and raw.
It’s impossible to not be moved by the shifts in feeling, and the empty space that the director creates between the messages of the partners. The early, kinetic bustle of the initial relationship buzz give way to long, empty distances that increase as the relationship deteriorates. As a factual retelling of old texts there’s a certain baseline of facts that cannot be shifted, so it’s the director’s work in constructing the narrative that makes it all gel beautifully.
Outside of the film’s content itself, the method and behaviours around communication also fascinate. While recalling events from 2003 to 2006, it’s clear to see the reliance upon written communication can leave so much left in the void. It’s the messages unwritten that carry some of the most affecting power.
The course of true love never did run smooth. 160 Characters is not a story of love between two adults, but between a mother and her son. Mapplebeck has delivered a stunning piece of work, and her unending love for her son is self-evident throughout. No matter the incompetence or disinterest of the biological father, 160 Characters acts as a defiant love letter to her Jim.
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DIRECTOR: Victoria Mapplebeck
WRITER: Victoria Mapplebeck
EDITOR: Lisa Forrest
MUSIC: Jim Mapplebeck
SYNOPSIS: A story that unfolds in just 100 texts and tells the story of how two people meet, date, break up and deal with an unplanned pregnancy.