Cecile On The Phone is a short film written and directed by Anabelle Dexter-Jones, who also plays the main character (Cecile). The film uses a mash up of shots inside Cecile’s apartment along with scenes of the outside world to show the contrast between Cecile and her friends. She is hesitating to have a conversation with her ex while her friends are out in the world living their lives. This containment and hesitation throughout the film makes a larger statement about living in the past tense, in that living in the past tense is a way to keep the memory alive. However, it causes a struggle in the present and can end up feeling suffocating rather than liberating.
The fact that the film begins with the ringing of the telephone before anyone speaks emphasizes that there is a hesitation overwhelming the actions of the main character. The camera pans along the curled cord of the telephone because it is showing that this line is Cecile’s only connection to the rest of the world. I love that she says “I’m the one in control here” to her distorted reflection in the bathroom mirror as she talks on the phone with her friend. It is clear that she is vulnerable when it comes to her ex and her hesitation to actually speak to him either in person or over the phone is due to a fear of rejection and criticism.
The way this movie was filmed caught my interest as well. The quality of the camera is interesting because it makes me think of movies made in the late 90s to early 2000s. It has that same intimate, subtle and sometimes grainy quality to the lighting and the coloring. It makes the mood of the film calm and comforting like I’m watching another casual day out of someone’s life as if this piece is not a stand alone film, but an episode.
One element of the film that was significant was the mirror reflections. It’s definitely there to show Cecile’s fear of being judged by the outside world for her appearance. However, I think it’s also about speaking words to be heard and to be given attention versus actually saying what is honest and real for you. Cecile strikes me as a character who longs to be comforted and consoled and told that she is right. All of the conversations she has are very limited in subject. She hardly asks about her friends’ lives and instead constricts the focus to herself and to her relationship.
At one point in the film, her friend says “If you’re exhausting all your psychic energy on an emotionally bankrupt person you’re going to have nothing for yourself.” I found a great amount of truth in that line because it’s stressing how important it is to focus on yourself. It’s not the same as being selfish. It’s simply living in the present tense and freeing up your mind from being chained to the past or to the idea of someone that you love. No one is worth loving if they drain who you are.
Notice that Cecile’s expression changes after she hears this line though. She doesn’t know how to process it because it’s the kind of advice that would lead her to let go. Instead of using her energy, her time, and her words to focus on her ex, she would be focusing on herself and what she needs. Maybe the bigger issue here is that she doesn’t actually know what she needs right now and that is why she spends so much time pondering about a relationship that is over.
One of my favorite scenes is when she is talking to a male friend and he’s in the bathroom zipping up his pants. We get shots of her looking at her reflection again. The infection on her lip has gotten bigger and she starts picking at it, which only makes it worse. The conversation is about how her friend saw her ex. So, the mood is tense and she starts interrogating him with questions while she tries to fix the infection. The music becomes intense and all these details rise in such a dramatic fashion that it becomes comedic. This scene also showed my how she cannot physically leave the apartment or move on from thinking about the relationship because of the presence of this infection on her lip. It’s symbolic both literally and emotionally as a scar from the relationship. It prevents her from moving on with her life and even when her friend asks if she’d like some company, she declines. The camera zooms on the reflection of the mark and it’s like she can see the horror of the way she might be judged by the outside world for wearing it.