Written and directed by Sean Lionadh, Too Rough is a 15-minute drama following partners as they wake up after a night of partying and are left to find sanctuary in each other’s arms.

Too Rough opens with Nick (Ruaridh Mollica) standing alone at a small gathering while surrounded by harsh red lighting and garrulous partygoers. The charismatic Charlie (Joshua Griffin) fits right in. “I don’t think I’m gay enough to be here,” Nick utters to Charlie. But Charlie reassures him that his claim is not at all true. When discussing their plans for afterward, Charlie asks why Nick never invites him over to his place, playfully asking, “Do flowers die there?” Feeling slightly pressured, Nick gives in, and they spend the night at his residence, although Nick says to Charlie that he can’t stay — hinting at a more vivid inkling that not everything is right at home.

Nick wakes up to find that Charlie never left, and his homophobic family is right outside the door. Anxiety and fear quickly take over. Nick begins stumbling over his words, and he beseeches Charlie to keep his voice down. The fear that his parents will walk in and catch him overwhelms Nick. Mollica vivifies that fear with every stutter, whimper, and recoil brought on by Charlie’s affection. In one scene, Charlie kisses Nick’s shoulder, and Nick pulls back out of fear or shame. With his family outside, Nick retreats into his shell, but Charlie won’t let him.

Nick wakes up to find that Charlie never left, and his homophobic family is right outside…”

As Charlie becomes more acquainted with Nick’s turbulent home life, the more he tries to protect him with a kind of warmth, fortitude, and embrace that is unparalleled. Griffin gives an indelible performance as Charlie, who is written and portrayed with so much emotional depth and sensitivity. Gradually, Charlie allows himself to be more open and solicitous. The relationship between Nick and Charlie is tenderly conceived, with Mollica and Griffin really giving it their all, employing nonverbal cues to express their relationship’s durability. The technical aspects follow suit, with Eloise Kretschmer’s stirring score becoming more prominent as Nick and Charlie more comfortably embrace.

Working within a 15-minute runtime, Lionadh times everything — every touch, every glance, every gesture, and every shot — perfectly. Even though Too Rough delivers on the unease strongly, with there being a visible threat to the central pair’s safety, empathy is the priority. The filmmaker accentuates the process of weathering and confronting trauma, with or without words, with the help of somebody who makes you feel safe and worthy.

So much emotion is radiated overtly and covertly. There’s a moment that’ll stay with me for years to come. It’s a moment where placing one’s hands over another’s ears speaks to the progression of a relationship while simultaneously underscoring the efficacy of having a loved one by your side to weather the storm. It’s a testament to Lionadh as a filmmaker, a storyteller, and a human being that he writes and directs with a bracing degree of subtlety and sophistication. Charlie’s burgeoning prudence and tact, often expressed through body and action, offer a rare form of warmth amid a grim reality that quietly empowers and soothes.

Glued together by small details, palpable emotion, and remarkable performances, Too Rough is a profound and fearless portrayal of love and trauma. It is one of the best short films of the year.

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