Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Short Film Spotlight: Sailcloth

Eighteen minutes can seem like an eternity for some and not enough time to others. In the world of film it can come and go in a blink. This is one of the reasons why director Elfar Adalsteins’ film Sailcloth is such a treat. Adalsteins not only use the brief time to tell a charming story, but also manages to do it with no dialogue whatsoever.

An elderly widower (John Hurt) decides to set in motion a series of events to disguise his escape from a local nursing home. Free for the first time in a long while, the man gathers a few supplies, including a bed sheet that he uses as a sail, aheads to the pier and sets out on a boat for one last great journey.

Sailcloth is currently one of ten short films that has made the Academy Award short list in the Live Action Short category. While it is never easy to predict which films will be nominated, Sailcloth is a film that has several things working in its favour. The most obvious element is the brilliant performance by John Hurt. Forced to rely on his physical attributes to convey a lifetime worth of emotions, Hurt utilizes even the smallest gestures to maximum effect. He brings out his characters’ playful side while slowly peeling back the layers to reveal a much more somber side.

Though it would be easy to draw comparisons to another dialogue free potential Academy Award nominee, The Artist, Adalsteins’ film is more akin to the opening segment of Pixar’s Up. While Sailcloth does not go into the whole history of the main character like Up, the film still manages to provide the same sense of an eternal love that cannot be forgotten. One of the best moments in the film comes when Adalsteins uses silhouettes on the sail to show a tender moment between Hurt’s character and his beloved.

Sailcloth is a film that is both delightful and bittersweet at the same time. Adalstiens manages to take his audience through a sea of emotions in such a short span of time. One of the most remarkable aspects of the film is how Adalstiens and Hurt get the audience to care so deeply about an unnamed man whom they know so little about. Sailcloth is a wonderfully moving film that will have the audience laughing one minute and tearing up the next.


  1. I'm a huge John Hurt fan and this short film sounds absolutely charming. I don't see nearly enough shorts. I should check this one out.

  2. @Dave - Hurt really hits it out of the park with his performance. It is extremely hard to convey all that emotion through simple jesters but Hurt does it almost effortlessly.

  3. Anonymous11:42 am

    Hi Dave, if you still haven't seen Sailcloth, you can watch it here on iTunes:


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