Grief. Sorrow. Isolation. Three words that encapsulate the tone of last year and have been crystallized in ‘To Erase A Cloud’ – the directorial debut of 21-year-old former Comme des Garçon model-turned-filmmaker Jim Longden.
The film trails the life of John Little: a young man whose inner demons surface whilst living alone in isolation, when his mother passes away. Played by Longden’s best friend, London-born model-turned-poet 22-year-old Sonny Hall, ‘To Erase A Cloud’ is, to put it simply: bleak but weighted by poetry.
In the film’s opening scene we see a shirtless Hall writhing around in his room (littered with day-warm half-drunk cans of Polish beer and red wine) contorting his body, limbs as loose as spaghetti, dancing against the glow of tobacco stained light , in what appears to be a moment of joy, before running to his balcony and hurling, breaking down into tears. It may sound sombre, but there’s a resounding solitude found in Little’s nihilism, and eventual submission.
For Longden — who is currently signed to IMG — the film serves as a potent reality check for the next generation; a reminder “to love and appreciate the real aspects of life” he says, “most of us are entering a false reality, a mass façade of achieving a” perfect “reality when we all know that nobody is perfect.”
Having written 27 drafts of the script since late 2019, Longden recruited Hall for the lead role. “He has this look about him, a glimmer in his soul that’s reflected in his movements and expressions. He had never acted before and I had never directed before so we were both willing and eager to team up and create something we would both be proud of ”he says.
Executive produced by artist / actress (and Gucci’s new muse) Lily Gavin, Dexter Navy and Henry Burch, along with associate producer Olmo Schnabel (producer of ‘Giants Being Lonely’) – the 20-minute film was shot entirely on 16mm and is due to circulate on the film festival circuit in spring.
“In a sense, the experiences I have had throughout my life gave me everything I needed for this role” Hall explains, “the storyline sung true to many parts of myself, the parts of myself that constantly need a new container to jump into, marinate in and express themselves from. This film and role became that container for a few months. “
Despite having no previous acting experience, the common threads between Hall and the film’s lead character, John Little, were inseparable. Prior to shooting, after three years of sobriety, Hall relapsed and ended up back in rehab for three months. “Having to pretend to drink wasn’t too hard, but the madness that goes underneath the urgency to act like that was definitely risky for me to connect to” he says, “I also found ‘pretending’ to grieve Johnny Little’s mother a tricky one, because I lost my own six-years-ago. Opening myself up to this idea was giving in many ways, but Jim helped me with that and held me through all of the discomfort because he simply gave me a space to feel whatever it was, completely freely. “
But despite the extremities seen in John Little, ‘To Erase A Cloud’ is essentially a story about trying to find threads of hope, even in the darkest of situations. “Johnny is someone simply going through a chaotic sequence, a human one, one that arranges grief, loneliness, self loathing, destructive impulses, obsessive thinking and depression into a person that cannot see himself outside of that. And I know that most people, at some point, feel smothered by these holds ”Hall finishes. “Everybody is lonely together,” Longden adds, “I believe that we all look for the light at the end of the tunnel, and sometimes realise that the light was present the whole time from just being alive”.
Dexter Navy and Jim Longden