Review – Òran Na H-Eala by Steve Exeter

A vivid dream exploration of Moira Shearer’s heart and mind, just before and after she agreed to star in Powell and Pressburger’s beloved cinema classic “The Red Shoes”, a decision that would change her life forever.

Directed by Steve Exeter, ‘Òran Na H-Eala’ stars Shannon Davidson, Alastair Thomson Mills, Alec Westwood and Nicole Nelrose. Chronicling the life and times of Moira Shearer as she is goaded by a production house to leave her job and come work for them, ‘Òran Na H-Eala’ is a lively and colourful short film that leaves a lasting impression.

Exeter approaches the film from a visual arts perspective, ensuring that every frame pops out. The creative colour choices not only illustrate the internal conflict within the protagonist, it also helps to create a sense of aloofness of the protagonist from her surroundings, illustrating that her internal conflict is now starting to interfere with the real world. The long gazes of the protagonist in the mirror as the voiceover ensues provide a peek into her internal tug of war.

Òran Na H-Eala (2022) by Steve Exeter – © Full Bodied Productions

The sound of the film has a life of its own. Not only does the title of the film refer to the song sung by the protagonist, but the deep and personal touch of this song exemplifies the central narrative of the story. The sound mixing and sound editing are flawless and do a great job of spatially developing the protagonist’s struggles.

In the acting department, Shannon Davidson plays the protagonist Moira and knocks it out of the park. Her incredible regimen, her dance routine and her dedication to the craft not only polishes the protagonist but also helps to ensure a highly authentic central performance that endears her to the audience. With the audience mesmerised by her beauty, Davidson puts on a great show, one that will instantly rocket her up to stardom. The supporting turns by Alastair Thomson Mills and Alec Westwood as rival company executives looking to snap up Miss Moira for their own production are compelling in their own right. All in all, a great overall performance by everyone involved.

Òran Na H-Eala (2022) by Steve Exeter – © Full Bodied Productions

However, by far the most striking thing about the production is its use of colours. Richly dense hues make up every frame of the film and the yellowish tilt makes for an exciting viewing. The team behind the production ensures that colour takes up a unique characteristic of its own in the story and they have successfully used this to add narrative depth. The film looks visually striking and unique, a feature rarely available in the digital filming age of today.

The conversation about this film cannot be complete without discussing its ending. The ending not only signifies the resolute nature of our protagonist but also leaves the door open regarding her final decision. With the rival promising greatness and stardom and the current job fulfilling the passion that comes with ballet dancing, it appears Moira is in a bit of a stretch.

Òran Na H-Eala (2022) by Steve Exeter – © Full Bodied Productions

However, Moira is not one to shy away from a challenge so easily and as she struggles to select one of the two futures laid out for her, she will look into her past, into her struggles and what truly makes her happy. This is a beautiful message that the film has managed to insert into the narrative.

Beautifully shot with every frame bursting with lively energy, this short is a glorious work of art that fires on all cylinders. Thematically resonant and technically sound, ‘Òran Na H-Eala’ works on many different levels and actually elevates the audience’s entire experience. Exeter has managed to do wonders in this 10-minute short, carefully melding reality and fantasy to evoke an experience that is best seen on the big screen. A creative and artistic success, this endeavour has auteur written all over it and will hopefully ensure that Exeter is able to weld feature length projects as soon as possible.

About the film

“We wanted to celebrate the original film but also shine a light on the uncanny parallels between Moira Shearer and her tragic alter ego Victoria Page. Revealing a complex and defiant young woman who ultimately chose life over fame.” – Steve Exeter

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