Jo Southwell’s short film Cover Me is a tremendously powerful experience owing its strength almost exclusively to the performance of Isis Davis. A young woman alone in a dark, gray room, Davis goes on a monologue about her life growing up, revealing a history of sexual abuse and tragedy at the hands of her father (Alexander Arthur).
As the monologue rolls along, the visual and editorial style begins to work with the cadence and the repetitions. Scenes are shot with the same poses and facial expressions, creating a visual symmetry to the repeated abuses. Moments often preceded by a “Did I mention that?” as Davis tries to make sure that everything is revealed, nothing left out. It’s painful to watch, even as Davis’ performance remains charismatic throughout.
Where the film goes, and turns, I will not reveal. It’s not an easy journey to experience, even second-hand as a listener, but by the end you’ll understand why she’s alone in that room. Why she’s ranting to us. Whether a salvation can exist for her.
Cover Me is an incredibly intense experience to endure, because the subject matter is so challenging, but that makes the film all the more impressive. As the monologue builds, eventually revealing a more traditional narrative structure in its climatic moments, you’ve been along on an increasingly traumatic journey, one that no one walks away from unscathed. It’s s trip that not everyone will be up for, but it’s handled in as masterful a way as one could hope.
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