In the past, student films have tended to be a very mixed bag, either overly pretentious of understandably lacking a little in the ability area. They are, to be fair, a part of the film-maker’s learning process and, as such, it’s not always fair to judge their films to the same standards applied to other films. However in recent years the quality of student productions has taken a massive leap forward. Whilst some of this improvement can be attributed to better equipment being made more widely available, an increase in talent has played just as an important part. On watching Unto A Good Land you will struggle to believe that this is a final year project; writer/director Ross Barnwell is showing talent way beyond his years.
The most striking aspect of the production is just how good everything looks, it’s an ambitious undertaking to set a student short in a period setting, let alone in the middle of The Great War, but the film looks utterly convincing. Visually it’s on a par with much higher budget productions and you will feel right next to the soldiers in the trenches. However a convincing mise-en-scène is of little use if the film isn’t well shot and it’s here that Barnwell once again proves his talent. The film looks fantastic throughout and, coupled with the excellent score, the film creates some truly haunting scenes.
It’s a pleasure to say that the story is as accomplished as the technical aspects. The characters are well developed in a short space of time and whether likeable or detestable you will want to follow their story. The inclusion of a German nurse is a very interesting element and that could prove to be one of the more engaging storylines if this short is followed up with the planned further episodes.
Acting-wise it’s a little bit of mixed bag, some of the regional accents feel a little twee in places and a few of sub characters could have been played a little more convincingly. Thankfully though the leads deliver accomplished performances throughout and are more than a match for the quality shown in all the other aspects of the production.
Unto A Good Land would be a great accomplishment for any short film-maker, let alone a final year student. This is fantastic work from Ross Barnwell that definitely marks him out as man to watch in future.
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