By Stu Greenfield (@Youvegotfilmon)
When I was first asked to review this piece of film, it came with a warning. A disclaimer. “Be careful, this can be difficult to watch.” “Pffft” I thought. I am a hardened film fanatic and TV enthusiast. Many films and TV series have dealt with similar issues to, The wHOLE. I am a seasoned and professional viewer of things that are hard to watch. I was wrong.
The wHOLE, deals with a number of hard-hitting issues in its brief but toll taking running time. Incarceration, loneliness, hopelessness, mental health, institutionalization, social isolation, self-harm, and the human condition are all touched on throughout the film.
The wHOLE, follows Marcus Williams, as he is transferred from a prison to solitary confinement. From the first scene we feel his degradation and humiliation as he is faced with a full body search and all of his possessions are taken away, including a picture of his son. Marcus is then taken to a stark cell. It is in this cell that we watch him mentally decline, as he experiences almost total social isolation. His only communications with others are through short, angered interactions with a staff member and one emotional visit.
Throughout the film Marcus is pining for the photo of his son that was confiscated, however you get the impression that what he’s masking is a desire for positive human contact. The simplicity and austere environment he is in symbolizes the life he now has. There are no friends to talk to. There are no activities, no work, no life to distract him from what is going on inside his head. All he has is what’s inside his head and that gradually takes its toll with some drastic consequences.
The film can be hard to watch, that is undeniable. You witness Marcus decline into a state of mental ill-health. You watch him try his hardest to amuse himself and keep himself occupied with what he has in his room in an attempt to maintain his health. What works well to emphasize this is the minimalist use of script and soundtrack. The silence around ………. Interspersed only by the noises within the cell aid in highlighting how sparse his environment is. The audience is drawn into this environment.
William Brown gives a strong performance as Marcus and at times as an audience you can see and feel the pain, the anger, and frustration he must feel within his cell. The raw performance adds to the realism, providing evidence the producers have utilized knowledge and experiences from first hand experiences. Director Ramon Hamilton and Producer Jennifer Fischer made a strong decision casting an individual with first hand experience of incarceration. It definitely adds grit to the scenes.
The film is hard-hitting and an important piece in terms of how people experience incarceration and in particularly, solitary confinement. Excellent casting and real life research add a realism that is both disturbing and exhilarating. Watch this and you will eagerly await another installment.