The Summer is here and Noah and his friends are about to graduate high school, but this rite of passage, which already comes loaded with emotions, is upended when Noah’s best friend passes. In Lay Me by the Shore, S/W alum writer/director David Findlay (Found Me) is back with a deeply emotional film tackling youth and grief from a subtle and omniscient perspective. Engrossing narratively and visually, grab them tissues and get ready to feel the feels.
“Music is huge for me . . . it infuses itself quite early on into the DNA of any given project I embark on”
Just like in his previous film, the soundtrack of the film feels paramount in the construction of the narrative and of the emotional arc. As Findlay explains: “Music is huge for me, whether it is the starting point or comes later it infuses itself quite early on into the DNA of any given project I embark on”. With Lay Me by the Shore originating from his own personal experience, it was during the writing stages that he discovered The White Birch song that would give the film its title, and from here “it all clicked”.
We often see films about teenagers, coming-of-age stories focused on young high school graduates, lost in that Summer before they go off to college or start their “adult life”. Grief is what sets this film apart, losing a friend in high school is not as common. Mixing loss and young love gives the film an incredibly compelling emotional depth. Findlay paints a very specific portrait of youth that when not universal prompts self reflection. The perspective he chose allows the film to remain subtle, the distance gives emotional room for the audience to process it all or simply fill in the blanks, it’s an engaging approach.
From the cinematography by Evan Prosofsky, his camera feels very benevolent, as it captures Noah’s ups and downs, to the sound design by Mitchell Allen, the film holds your attention from the first to the last second. With the gorgeous framing of the images and the color palette, that the Summer offers, captured on film, we feel immersed in these long, warm days, while also feeling Noah’s inner turmoil. Allen balances the dialogue and the music impressively, making both enhance the emotional impact of the other. While, the short’s structure is perfectly crafted by editor Alexander Farah (Sides.pdf) who seamlessly puts all those scenes together and builds the rawness of Noah’s state of mind like a jigsaw puzzle.
“Casting is everything for me”, Findlay states as we discuss his production and having briefly worked with the two main, non-professional, actors of Lay Me by the Shore, Isla Pouliot and Kayla Smith, on a previous project he felt like their energy would be a perfect fit for his film. The rest of the cast was composed by their actual friends. The chemistry between Pouliot and Smith feels so genuine and is so beautiful to watch, they truly capture the beauty and sincerity of young love. Pouliot is also remarkable in how his character navigates grief and tries to find a way to cope with it, his presence on-screen is utterly captivating.
Ahead of its online release as a Vimeo Staff Pick Premiere, Lay Me by the Shore had its world premiere at the 2022 edition of the Berlinale in the Generation section, it was also selected at TIFF and Montreal’s FNC. Findlay is now planning on releasing his first documentary short Ndagukunda déjà online soon, and is currently writing a new film about grief and adolescence that he hopes to shoot in the Summer.