A lone hiker named Jess is looking for her missing sister in the moors of northern England. But as she marches along her path, a police car blocks her way.
The officer tells Jess that she has to turn back — there’s an invisible, odorless toxin in the air that would be fatal if inhaled. The wind is blowing it away from them, but if the wind’s direction changes, it could mean death for anyone in the area.
But Jess can’t turn back. Her sister is somewhere out there in the bleak yet beautiful landscape. So despite the officer’s warnings, she marches ahead.
Director Adam Butcher and writer Lawrie Doran have crafted a quiet, riveting disaster movie that relies almost entirely on its subtle, rich acting performances and stunning visuals to transmit a sense of fear and dread.
Every frame of the film has a stripped-down beauty, letting the austere yet stunning landscape become one of the main characters of the film. The undulating folds and stretches of the moors contain both hope that Jess will find her sister — but also fear that she may encounter the deadly toxin in the air.
Every detail the camera captures — the leaves of a tree blowing in the wind, the ripple of a scarf on a stick, or the clouds moving up ahead — portends a potential shift in the story, lending the film a quiet yet relentless build-up of suspense. The sound design also contributes, with every sound of a blowing wind signalling potential disaster for Jess.
But the real power comes from Tony-nominated actor Lydia Leonard’s central lead performance, who in a short amount of screen time captures the sisterly devotion — and complex emotional entanglements — that compel Jess to walk her way into potential doom.
As Jess makes her way through the land by herself, and as the clouds roll over the land, the suspense and tension builds to an unexpectedly emotional climax. The result is a genuinely cinematic experience, drawing on film’s ability to transport viewers to a faraway place — and inside a character’s head — to create an unsettling, quiet yet forceful story that lingers long after the final, beautifully lensed frame.
Q&A with Adam Butcher
OMELETO: What made you want to tell this story or make this film? Why is it important to you?
ADAM BUTCHER: Quite simply, I came across the script and thought “This is really cool, let’s do it.” I’d really wanted to do something purely live-action — most of my previous work has mixed live-action with animation — and I loved the challenge of bringing an “invisible threat” to life.
OMELETO: What lessons did you learn while making this film (or any others) that had a positive effect on you or the project? How did that lesson happen?
ADAM BUTCHER: Don’t get too stressed. If you enjoy the process, it makes better work.
OMELETO: How did you become interested in filmmaking? What drew you to film specifically?
ADAM BUTCHER: I’ve been making films since I got a MiniDV camera for my 12th birthday — lots of stop-motion lego and childish sketch shows. I think I love film so much just because it’s such “authored” storytelling — each 90-minute story is so different than the last.
OMELETO: What makes a film or story good or interesting to you?
ADAM BUTCHER: A great film should move me or make me think — ideally both. Like a lot of humans, I like laughing, crying, being frightened, and being surprised.
OMELETO: What do you want audiences to take away from your body of work?
ADAM BUTCHER: I want audiences to be moved, entertained and sometimes provoked. I think my body of work is evolving, but I’m particularly fascinated by “form” and finding new ways to tell great stories.
OMELETO: What question have we not asked that you would love to answer?
ADAM BUTCHER: What are you working on next? I hope to make my feature film debut in the near future — I have several scripts written, from a funny post-apocalyptic romance, to a claustrophobic survival drama. I just need to connect with a great producer who likes my eclectic tastes.