Every time I review an Indie film I have to go over the same issues; production value, making something out of nothing, and overall director’s talent. Sometimes films with the most limited of resources can still make something extraordinary, and I am all the more impressed because of it. But these are the minority. Most of the time low production value means low quality of film. Sadly, this first attempt from Jump Cut UK’s Jakob Lewis Barnes falls under the weight of its own ambition and low budget.
Filmed entirely on an IPhone over the course of one day on a budget of 200 Euros, it’s a miracle the film is what it is. But visually and audio wise the film is hurting. Slow motion shots have terrible framerate, the lighting is rarely balanced, and the low value is felt in every shot. Speaking of shots, most of the filming looks like it has been filmed in hand rather than using a tripod or any type of stabilizer. There are a few pretty frames though. Isolated nature moments are captured with a unique sort of grace and the few characters (though silent throughout) are well explained through simple visual cues. And that’s the positive side here. The story is something special.
Interpretation can be a fickle mistress. On one hand leaving things open ended for the viewer to decipher on their own can be a rewarding experience where personal taste and imagination helped by the goings on screen can create an amazing story. On the other, an open ending can lead to confusion and frustration. Layla finds itself somewhere in the middle. After watching, I had an in depth conversation with the creators who said that the plot of the film was based on the differing views on religion. I personally saw more of a kidnapping story about a girl alone. The overarching theme is the same. The girl is trapped in a limbo like state by a God like figure and is tempted to escape by the devil. To me, I saw a girl in her captors clutches who finds a savior who tries to rescue her from imprisonment. In the end, it’s all up to you. The actors are able to sell off their respective roles with grace to the point where you can make your own assumptions about them. When you start to feel a bit lost, there are helpful title screens along the way to help you out. At the very least, it is aware of its limited time and exposure and tries to make the most of what it has.
It’s not without bright moments but Layla needs work. The obviously unprofessional camera work and lighting reflect poorly on what could have been a clever use of story. With a bigger budget and some better cameras it could have been something worth writing home about, but sadly it doesn’t make the cut. RDR gives it a 4 out of 10.