Directed by Aoife McArdle, All of This Unreal Time follows a man, played by Cillian Murphy (Peaky Blinders, 28 Days Later, Inception), as he walks through London at night, monologuing and apologising for various acts. Though the premise of this short film, which premiered at this year’s Manchester International Festival, seems to be fairly simple, it is this paucity of artifice which allows it to shine.
Murphy’s regrets are wide-ranging, as his character apologises for the person he is, for the impact of society upon nature, and even says sorry for being sorry. The monologic dialogue written by Max Porter (Grief is the Thing with Feathers) that features throughout the production is highly stylised, and can be difficult to make sense of at times.
However, Murphy’s performance is remarkable, as the varying speed at which he speaks, combined with the lilt of his intonation, results in a rhythmic flow that washes over the viewer as they are taken through his physical and emotional journey of introspection.
Murphy’s character continues to traverse the city, with London embodying the essence of a concrete jungle as tracking shots follow him while shuttered shops illuminated by neon lights are shown in the background.
As the night progresses and breaks into dawn, Murphy is seen walking through a much more natural landscape, though one that is still impacted by urbanity through the presence of pylons. However, in stark contrast to the oppressive grittiness of the city, shots of the natural setting are calming, if even serene – a flock of birds are seen moving in unison, alluding to the relative beauty of nature in comparison with the city.
Particular praise must also be paid to the title’s score, which was composed by Aaron and Bryce Dessner (founding members of band The National) and Jon Hopkins. As Murphy is walking through the streets of London, brooding synths play in tandem with the telltale humming sound of fluorescent lights, matching the character’s sense of internal conflict and strife while searching for clarity.
This then gives way to a positive score as the production reaches its conclusion, with optimistic piano chords playing while Murphy’s monologue comes to a close. The use of music in this way complements All of This Unreal Time, generating a soundscape that reflects the mood and tone of the short film throughout its 24 minute runtime.
An intimate look into an unnamed character’s introspective reflection, punctuated by a stellar performance from Cillian Murphy, All of This Unreal Time is a must-see at Manchester International Festival 2021.