THE SHADOWS is an Irish film which was released in Ireland on the 13th of July, and was one of the children’s films screened at this year’s Cambridge Film Festival. Although it had problems, I enjoyed this film.
It starts off with a magical tale about the shadow people and their mystical ways, illustrated with beautiful animated drawings. It is also about the evil reign of the white witch Eldren (Natalia Kostrzewa). It explains that she was buried under ice, sleeping. It says she still had powers and could still be thinking evil things under the ice (If she was all powerful, couldn’t she break the spell that put her to sleep and melt the ice?). After hearing her in his dreams, a shadow prince went to the chamber where she was buried, and released her from the spell. Not long after her being awake, he got killed. This was a good opening to the film, except for the problem with the ‘all powerful’ witch.
All we see is a shy, quiet young boy and his clearly distressed mother move into a new house…
So, does it improve or stay as good in the next sequence, introducing the main character? Well, not really. Eerie, haunting music leads in from the tale, which sets the scene out nicely; but after that, I just got confused. Matthew (Lorcan Melia) and his mother, Carol (Gráinne McHale) are moving into their grandmother’s, but why? All we see is a shy, quiet young boy and his clearly distressed mother move into a new house. And where is Matthew’s Dad? Something’s happened either to him or between him and his wife, and in a later scene, Carol refuses to take a necklace from Matthew’s school teacher, Bob, because “she can’t”. Maybe at the beginning of the film, they could have given us an extra day or two at the house so we knew what was going on. Your audience needs to get to know the characters so they’re believable. If the audience don’t believe the characters they won’t care about them, and the audience should care. But the person who saved this section for me was Lorcan: he really has something special when it comes to acting.
The film moves on when Matthew finds the secret door to the land of the shadows. The white witch lives behind the door, in a snowy part of a magical world. It’s just like C.S. Lewis’ Narnia! I’m not objecting to this, but the film would have been a lot better if it had some more aspects which were not so generic. However, the casting for this film was done very well, especially for the four main characters: Lorcan Melia, Natalia Kostrzewa, Michael Parle (Yorrick) and Emma Eliza Regan (Alice). For me, the one who stole the screen was Kostrzewa: her facial expressions allowed the audience to read her like a book and know exactly what she was going to do, which is always frightening. She portrayed the witch in an interesting, creepy fashion: exactly how Eldren was meant to be, in my eyes.
For me, the one who stole the screen was Kostrzewa…
Overall, the special effects weren’t very good. For example, when Eldren is lighting a fire and we see it come out of the roof of her ice cave, the effect used is not very realistic. One exception was the simple but effective use of shadows. When a shadow man/woman comes out of the shadow world, he has to turn into a shadow because the elder shadow forbids them from taking human form.
I would like to talk about the clever twist ending. It’s so straight forward and obvious, and yet there was so much to think about that you wouldn’t actually consider it. I’ll leave you to watch it to find out. But in conclusion, I was a bit disappointed by THE SHADOWS, as it lacked answers to questions people needed to know; it was too similar to Narnia and it didn’t get me excited or on the edge of my seat like similar movies usually do. I wouldn’t recommend it to people for these reasons. But putting that aside, it had brilliant casting, an amazing ending, and beautiful drawings which made me smile.