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Terminus

Released 2021. Director: Tim Seyfert

BREAK-UP SCENES ARE BY NATURE A POIGNANT AFFAIR, the crossroads of an emotional journey where two lovers will go their separate ways. Last goodbye. Final words. Maybe a parting kiss or embrace, or angry words and a slam of the door. Terminus is a 13-minute short film which is essentially a break-up scene, the last 24 hours in the marriage of a young couple.

The story behind the scene, however, is as interesting as the film, if not more so. Terminus is shot and put together during the COVID lockdown in the UK when no more than six people are allowed to gather.

Evidently that’s not a reason to postpone production. Flexing his organisational skills, Tim Seyfert, who wrote and directed Terminus based on one of his short stories published earlier, assembled a cast of two and a crew of four for the project. Josh Harper and Bethany Slater played the couple. Ben Fullman shot and edited, with Andrew Brierley as assistant cameraman; and Chris Baker on sound and music.

Filming took only two days down the southwest coast of England, on a zero budget and under heavy restrictions. A product of creative necessity, Terminus is a showcase of what resourcefulness in filmmaking can achieve even on a very small scale for those who have a clear vision and are logistically adaptable.

Although it lasts only minutes, the film manages to capture the couple’s despair and heartbreak vividly. The couple, Sam and Shawny, are often seen in individual shots, accentuating their growing split. When they share the same scene, we see them separated by artificial divisions, like the patio door through which we see the joyless couple eat dinner. We are nosy neighbours poking our noses where we shouldn’t; as when we steal a glance around a doorway into their bedroom.

The narrative leans slightly towards Sam as the one who tries to salvage the relationship. He attempts awkwardly to lighten the mood with some lame music trivia, as if Shawny could give a damn about Elvis Presley in her state of mind. Just before Shawny steps away for good, he tries one last time to talk and patch up. He imagines the two of them reconciling…

Harper and Slater are charismatic actors who capably convey the distance and emotional disconnect their characters experience. What is not shown but adequately implied in the script is the time and effort the couple have spent trying to save their marriage. A tragedy in minor key, it is short, succinct and fully-formed, with a quiet sigh at the end.

Terminus is embarking on a festival run, having already won two awards including Best First-Time Director for Seyfert. Check it out if it comes your way.

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