Who knew that something good would come out of Facebook Watch?
Yep, you read that right, Facebook Watch. It is Facebook’s streaming service that since last year started to produce its own shows, like Sorry for Your Loss, starring Elizabeth Olsen, Kelly Marie Tran, and Jovan Adepo. In the series, we follow how Leigh (Olsen) handles the death of her husband and how she slowly starts to think that she didn’t really know who he was. The show portrays grief in a realistic light, with one heartbreaking scene after another. The still that I chose for this article, is taken from the pilot episode that coincidently was directed by James Ponsoldt, of whom a film has already been talked about in this category before.
The shot I want to discuss is fairly simple, though very effective. On the image, we can see a close-up of Olsen’s face, as she reacts to the things her sister is saying to her. Her sister says that she should go to the apartment that she shared with her recently deceased husband, to clean things up and get rid of unnecessary items. It’s been three months since her husband passed away, and ever since then, she’s lived with her mom and sister, instead of in her apartment. Leigh hasn’t even gone there to pick up clothes or anything, as it’ll remind her of her husband and she doesn’t think that she’s ready for it yet. Earlier in the episode, she asked her sister if she doesn’t want to drop by and do the thing that she’s supposed to do by herself, which her sister agrees upon at first, though eventually she too didn’t do it, as she believes that Leigh’s supposed to go to the apartment as well, which she’s explaining in the scene this shot’s taken from. Evidently, Leigh’s feeling a bunch of emotions as her sister tells this. She’s sad, because she doesn’t want to break the bond she had with the apartment, she’s sad because she doesn’t want to throw away the things that belonged to her husband, she’s scared of the confrontation, and on top of that she’s still suffering from the loss of her husband and the depression that follows. A lot of emotions have stacked up, and Leigh’s approaching a breaking point, which Elizabeth Olsen managed to capture beautifully.
Because it’s a close-up, and because of the shallow depth of field, all of the focus on Olsen’s fantastic performance that radiates sadness, which makes the shot carry a lot of emotion. Even without knowing the context of the shot, you can still see that the girl depicted has gone through some stuff and that she’s finally had enough, while still trying to fight back. The shot tells a story. You can read the sadness in Olsen’s subtle facial cues and in how she keeps on avoiding eye contact. It’s a very powerful performance to which all of our attention is drawn, because of a few simple, wisely chosen camera tricks that give the shot the emotional punch it carries.
Another thing I really like about this shot is the lighting. An orange light falls upon the left side of Olsen’s face, casting a shadow on the right side. This orange light is created by something called the key light or the main light. In this case, it’s probably a floor lamp. The harsh shadows created by this key light are then often softened by a fill light, which was probably the case in this shot as the shadows are fairly muted. My guess is that the fill light was placed on a lower angle, oppose to the high angle that the key light is coming from. However, the thing that I like about the lighting is that the left side of the background is lighter in color, while the right side is dark, which creates a nice contrast between fore-and-background. This makes Olsen’s face stand out more from the background, and again makes us focus on her face. The two blurred out lights we can see behind her also make the background feel less flat, while still maintaining simplicity so that it doesn’t take away our attention from Olsen’s performance. I also think that this served as a rim light, though I’m not quite sure.
Also, notice how the colors in the shot are slightly desaturated to symbolize how losing her husband drained all the color from her life. The show often gives us snippets from their relationship, the ups and the downs, and during these flashbacks, the colors are a bit more vibrant, to showcase the happiness she felt being with him, even if it didn’t always go smoothly. It’s a very subtle change of color, though it tells a lot.
And that’s why I chose this shot; because of the complexity in its simplicity. The shot itself is fairly “simple”, but the story it tells is profound. There’s a lot of thought put into the camera settings and lighting, that bring all of our attention to the star of this shot, the performance. I also chose it to recommend a show that not a lot of people will watch because of the streaming service it’s on that not a lot of people know of. Each episode’s only thirty minutes long and they’re free to watch. Be warned, though, as they’re incredibly sad. It’s a very realistic portrayal of grief and depression, that’s respectfully brought to television, unlike other shows who handle it rather clumsily, like 13 Reasons Why. The first six episodes are up at the moment and for the coming few weeks two new ones will be added every Tuesday.