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by Tasteful Sideboob


I genuinely cannot imagine how difficult it must be to get the same genre 2 years in a row in this competition, but mad props to Tasteful Sideboob for coming up with something incredibly unique and getting in back to back national finals with horror films on the back of this strongly directed tale of obsession driven by an insanely strong performance by Rosie Howell.

HYDRANGREA is genuinely a film that takes multiple watches to fully understand what is going on more deeply, with the use of colour and the titular flower presenting strong metaphors about isolation and love that works very strongly. At its core we have a lost soul ready to try anything to get over being spurned in her romantic attempts, where unusual therapy and an unlikely person adminstering the treatment leads to a uniquely awkward comical situation.

On that note the visuals were striking, with the self reflexive re-emergence of our lead's inner self absolutely startling. Everything was framed in a very cinematic manner, with a sure hand behind the camera adding subtle but noticeable touches like handheld footage as we followed our lead, putting us in her slightly unstable mind.

Through social media after first watch I said that the film was too quiet, and I straight up apologise for that because sound has been crystal clear on each subsequent watch, allowing the shimmering dreamy moments of electronic score to shine through, as well as the memorable moments of sound design such as the leaves crunching as the inner self came through in the pot.

Now coming back to the messages the film was presenting, I think using such a strong blue colour tone to the grading in the flashbacks to rejection was genius, because not only did it convey the cold feeling of rejection but also a feeling of isolation and loneliness, whilst at the same time maintaining the comic tone this team nails every year thanks to the bright pink sweater on display at the dramatic moment.

This was so brilliantly complimented by the red hues of our lead's centrally framed face in the therapy, which gives a sense of warmth, passion and love. So by having these 2 contrasting colours the audience knew of her hurt and despite her obsessive traits was rooting for the protagonist by the end, allowing the comic payoff to hit so hard and so well.

If I am to be critical, I think as much as I loved the subversive take on the genre, as a massive horror fan I do ask myself is this a scary take on the genre? To me it isn't at first glance, but on reflection it's one of the more "oh, shit" type of disturbing scenarios you could imagine, and I'm all about rewarding unique genre takes in this comp. Also irrespective of my personal opinion about the genre and whether being scary matters, the performance carried the film so admirably that it creates something that stays with you for a long time after the credits roll.

Story: 4/5
Technical: 4.5/5
Elements: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

Deserves every Nickelodeon award it can get - a favourite of mine this year!

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