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SXSW Film Review: Lovebites (2020)

Lovebites (2020) is a short film handling the subject matter of broken relationships, which was meant to be shown at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival. Directed by Chinwe Okorie, this film stars Khali Sykes and Ukairo Ukairo. In this short film, Cat (Sykes) is coming to terms with the idea that perhaps her boyfriend Chidi (Ukairo) is not being fully honest with her in their relationship.

The subject matter of relationship issues is usually one that is a part of a film’s narrative and done in a way that feels either forced or over-dramatised. Here, the subject matter is handled beautifully, giving the film time to breathe and let the story tell naturally. Okorie uses the single setting of their house to create a sense of claustrophobia and entrapment, something that can be said about this relationship throughout the entirety of this story.

Short films have a different flow and pattern to them in comparison to feature-length movies, usually telling one-off stories without giving any information about the past or the future. This film feels like these characters fully exist, having them feel fleshed out and realised all in a very short amount of time. This is also done by the strong performances given by both Khali Sykes and Ukairo Ukairo, who are able to provide a range of emotions to their characters and bring this heartbreaking yet also sadly real story to life.

For a film that was made on a low budget like this one, it is impressive how stunning the cinematography is. Using a blue filter over to create a darker and sombre atmosphere, this lighting works incredibly well to set the scene up on what is about to happen. This is also paired with some fantastic use of editing, particularly tying the exposition of the opening shots with the narrative and returning to those opening shots to close the film up. It helped create a tight narrative, and it is an effect that I love to see used in short films like this.

If there was something I would like tightened up for the next film that Okorie creates, the script could have been tightened up during the middle section of the film. Whilst I love the ideas and overall narrative, some of the lines felt unnatural and rushed in terms of the story. It was clear from the start to me that things did not appear as they seemed, and maybe having a scene or two with Cat denying her thoughts and blaming herself for the situation could have helped with this. These are just some small pointers though, as Okorie overall does a fantastic job directing, writing and editing.

Being the first film that was sent to me to review from SXSW, Lovebites started this season on a very high note. Short and sweet, this film has one focus subject matter and spends the entire time lingering on it, creating a huge impact when the final moments are shown. This is a well made short from Chinwe Okorie and I cannot wait to see what she does in the future.

4/5

You can find out more about Lovebites through the official website here: https://www.lovebitesthefilm.com/

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