Release Date – 16th October 2021, Cert – N/A, Run-time – 1 hour 23 minutes, Director – debbie tucker green
Three vignettes looking into the experiences of Black Britons and Americans in modern society.
Adapted from her stage-play of the same name, writer-director debbie tucker green brings a stage-like quality to the screen adaptation of ear for eye – which she has re-written especially for it to work on the screen. There’s a simplicity to much of the staging throughout the piece, often set against a plain black background, allowing for the barrage of verbal details to come through. In the fast-paced opening scenes we see a mother telling her son how to interact with the police. Nothing he does seems right, and it’s claimed that whatever he does will only get him into further trouble; often only speaking one word at a time. It’s again a simple interaction, and yet it comes at you so quickly and with such force that it can often seem overwhelming. The sequence, which almost doesn’t come up for air until it’s over, forms only the beginning of the short 83 minute feature, yet packs in much of the detail, tone and themes. The theatrical nature of the film, both in look and on some occasions performance-wise, means that it feels as if it’s being performed right in front of you, you begin to feel the passion emerging from the scene and the screen. Indeed whereas some stage-like films and adaptations sometimes create something of a barrier ear for eye doesn’t always appear to have this same issue.
From an opening with such modern day relevance the film moves on and eventually reaches a shocking conclusion. As white faces read out racial laws and restrictions that should feel as if they’re from a bygone era and yet are part of unbelievably recent history. It’s a much swifter portion compared to the two that have come before it, and yet still has its effect within its simplicity. It shifts away from the performances being the core connection that bring you into the piece as you’re reminded once more that this is indeed reality, adding a further feeling that allows the film to step away from the common ‘filmed theatre’ style and label.
Perhaps the standout exchange, and the one that truly solidifies the film and keeps you in place; after the busy, tone-setting nature of the first vignette, is the second part in which we a heated debate between Lashana Lynch’s US Female and Demetri Goritsas’ US Male (no characters in the film are credited with anything other than these basic descriptions). The two actually respectively play a student and professor, arguing over the content of the professor’s lecture, Lynch’s character claiming that he eased the severity of the actions of the white killer being discussed in class. The sequence flows well and brings you perhaps the most out of all three parts of the piece. The way the two actors bounce off each other throughout the debate as it escalates and swirls within the small confines of an office which is largely made up of one table on the platform stag puts you in place as you simply sit and witness it unfolding, points, arguments and protests shooting and tumbling in the process.
This sequence is perhaps the most effective of the three. It feels to be the one that doesn’t quite lose steam, or begin to lose you as the more theatrical stylings begin to come through. This isn’t to say that this is a major issue in the other two segments placed either side of this one, however the case of the less ‘theatrical’ performances and techniques that are on display perhaps allows the central two performances in the moment to further shine and land an engaged impact on the viewer. Of course, this may be far from the case to those who have more of a liking for features that come across as near ‘filmed theatre’, with the initial flow of details and information having more of an impact because of the further connection with the format – when it comes to that initial styling I’m certainly not the target audience, but I did warm to ear for eye fairly quickly and managed to not overly notice the stage-like nature, or put it aside, as I got caught up in what it had to say. And the film has a lot to say and certainly tells you it with passionate detail from both tucker green and the cast that she has assembled to display the passion, arguments, confusion, hurt and more faced by her characters plucked straight from modern society and placed into this screen adaptation of occasionally artistic realism.
Not holding a standard ‘filmed theatre’ feel ear for eye occasionally switches and changes pace, overwhelming you with real-life details before its passionate, sometimes theatrical, performances further shine and allow for more thought later on.