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Young Film Critics review First Light films

The Woodland (Lizzie's review)

Hauntingly and beautifully expressing the story and struggle of a bereaved girl, Rachel, The Woodland recounts events including a strange vision, which turns around her perspective on her situation. Subtly mixing reality and dream, it taps into teenage memories of an earlier childhood imagination and seems to recall its warmth and familiarity.   

The Woodland  juxtaposes live action for the present with clay animation for the dream sequence, enhancing the symbolism and surrealism within the story. Skillfully produced and integrated, the dream sequence provides a jerky, slightly disjointed view in which the surrounding woodland appears loomingly huge and ominous; the small, overshadowed clay figures of Rachel and her toy and the detailed, close-up view of the forest floor add to the disorientation. Didn’t we all have Lilliputian fantasies as children?

Symbolism comes in the form of the bright blue clockwork bug that acts as Rachel’s companion, guide and ultimately saviour. It stands out in a cloudy, muted scape of colours, and is the one constant throughout the entire storyline.  Sound is used skillfully, particularly in the dream scene, where an eerie compilation of augmented rustlings, crunches of leaves and high whinings form a floor and ceiling of sound containing the action.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that the advice and perspective that Rachel needs comes from what appears to be a childhood toy, the blue bug. It represents a source of comfort and familiarity that is an anchor for her turbulent life. Finishing with Rachel walking back up the steps to her house, The Woodland is a powerful story of coming to terms with and coping with loss.

Review by Lizzie Daniels

Watch the full film and the other nominees on the First Light website.