Remnants (2022)

As its very title implies, Remnants is about traces, souvenirs and skeletons in the closet – those things left behind, whether material or psychological, by something that has passed. At the short film’s centre is a polaroid – that most ephemeral kind of photographic record – and a keepsake box, buried as a time capsule but now resurfacing. Yet memories are also being disinterred, in a modern outdoors gothic where the repressed is definitely, irrationally returning.

At the start, middle-aged Adrian (Simon Weir) sits alone in a car in the great outdoors, looking like a man contemplating suicide. Instead, however, he is there to hike, and after ignoring a call from his wife Catherine (Rayyah McCaul), he gets his backpack and heads off, huffing and puffing, through woods and fields to a river reservoir that conceals a flooded town. As an academic traversing land owned by his university, he stuffily keeps a handwritten record of his observations in a notebook, picks up other people’s litter, and shouts at a hoodied stranger whom he keeps seeing in the distance. Adrian is territorial, a little pompous, and haunted – and someone seems to be tracking his every move.

This is also a trip down memory lane. Adrian has previously travelled this path with another woman, the foreign student Yara (Emma Leah Golding) – and try as Adrian might to keep his conscience in check, the spectre of guilt keeps coming back in the form of voices from the past, etched into Adrian’s mind as reminiscences of sunnier moments and darker perfidies. Eventually these recollections and their associated recriminations will overwhelm Adrian, until he and his history of shameful conduct become mere remnants for someone else to locate. 

“Time capsules are for other people to find,” Adrian had told Yara – and this triangular tale of erotic betrayal closes its circle with both a slowly discovered revelation, and more than one illogical ellipsis, as it unearths some truths and keeps other buried. Drowning in remorse, Chris Boyd’s debut as writer/director is an ultimately impressionistic and ambiguous story of the supernatural that leaves the viewer unsure who exactly is living, and who ghost.

strap: Writer/director Chris Boyd’s debut short is an elliptical outdoors gothic of erotic betrayal and overwhelming guilt

© Anton Bitel