Dazedly: Review. By Ray Lobo.
Director Anona Langa’s debut short film Dazedly plunges the viewer into the inner thoughts of its lead, Holly (Tesni Kujore). Langa tells Holly’s story in a non-linear fashion. This non-linearity is disorienting, but that disorientation pushes the viewer to actively piece together the source of Holly’s anguish.
Holly’s head is swimming with voices. We isolate one voice saying, “She just left me.” This sense of abandonment sets Holly off on a journey to find her birthmother. Holly encounters a trio of sex workers that treat her disdainfully. We can guess that her birthmother is somehow involved in sex work. We catch glimpses of Holly’s lover, Mel (Craig Abbott). We begin piecing together a twisted interrelationship between Holly’s mind, her mother, and Mel.
Kujore does a solid job conveying Holly’s disjointedness. Kujore can conjure empathy in the viewer as she seeks to close the narrative loop of her birth. Kujore can also convey a fragmented psyche. We are not sure if Holly is suffering the effects of a troubled childhood or if a slow creeping psychosis is creating connections out of disparate life episodes. If there is anything that makes Dazedly suffer, it is some of Langa’s directorial choices.
Langa’s use of music sometimes overpowers the narrative and makes parts of Dazedly feel like a music video—this is certainly the case in a sequence involving Holly performing sword dance moves with a Samurai sword. It also feels as if Langa is packing too much story into a short film. A story involving someone attempting to track down their birthmother, betrayal, and a disintegrating psyche, certainly seems like too much to explore in twenty minutes.
The good news for Langa is that there is quite an interesting story behind the intrusive music and Dazedly’s inadequate length. Langa has an eye for setting, light, and character development. One feels her best work is yet to come.
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