For their 20th anniversary, Emelia brings home two devices that will allow her and her husband Jeff to access ‘Vert’, a virtual reality world where the user get a glimpse of their ideal-selves. While Jeff has a secret to hide, Emelia might have an ulterior motive which could make the experience change their relationship. In this moving story, carried by beautiful performances, writer/director Kate Cox uses the sci-fi genre to amplify the emotions of her characters and explore acceptance and support in relationships.
Though Vert is Cox’s first short drama, the film lives in the same narrative universe as her previous project Unboxing, a conceptual dance film that explores the topic of gender. Motivated by a desire to work on a new project with a storyline touching on gender, it was until Cox met Nick Frost that the inspiration for Vert struck. Driven by the idea of writing the part of Jeff for a typically masculine actor like Frost, she was also hoping to be able to rely on his comedic chops to lift the film.
When I first saw Vert, I was really fond of its emotional tone. At its core is a love story, a tale of unconditional love that despite its sci-fi element felt paradoxically very real. The level of open-mindness, respect and acceptance between the on-screen couple unexpectedly moved me, as I was fascinated by how trust in their relationship evolved. Where Cox truly succeeds within the sci-fi genre though is by opting not to delve into ‘Vert’ and the technology attached, instead using it to focus on the emotions at play and injecting her story with a truly original feel.
With that in mind, using the virtual dimension of her story solely as a catalyst for the emotional journey of the couple, feels like the perfect choice to stop her film becoming gimmicky and prevents any distraction from the actors. Yet, the visual aesthetic of the film is quite striking and obviously inspired by the sci-fi element of the piece. The stylized lighting and otherworldly synthetic sound design are efficient in fostering a certain atmosphere that compliments the story, again without ever feeling too gimmicky or distracting.
With a very ambitious one day shoot, that never allowed more than three takes, saying that the three actors, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Olivia Vinall and Nick Frost rose to the occasion is somewhat of an understatement. Their subtle and sensitive performances are truly what make the film so emotionally powerful.
The script kept on being polished until the end, but Cox was able to give detailed notes on the characters, which were most likely decisive in bringing Emelia, Jeff, Jem and their emotional baggage to the screen. The chemistry between them in every scene, the awkwardness, and just the way they reacted to each other is such a vital part of the storytelling and ensures the emotions sink even deeper. Amuka-Bird, in particular, wrecked me with her performance and the delivery of her lines, the vulnerability she infuses in her character, was truly breathtaking.
Vert got to screen IRL at Encounters, before being selected at SXSW and winning the Vimeo Staff Pick Award. Cox is currently in pre-production for her second short drama TORR and is in the early stages of development of a feature script.