Film Review: Isla

Jeremy Welch reviews a new short film called Isla.

IT IS without doubt one of the most difficult disciplines in cinema to create a short. A short is defined by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences as “an original motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all credits”.

That doesn’t give much time to fulfil the component parts of a successful film; within those 40 minutes the director, producer and cast must create character backstories, deliver a coherent, entertaining narrative arc that is not hurried or fragmented and complemented by visuals and accompanying music. This can only be achieved by the skilful use of the script, directional talent, producer tenacity and actors’ skill. It is no mean feat.

In Isla all this has been achieved to the highest standards; it’s an excellent production. The film explores the consequences of a decision taken by one man at the time of the Highland Clearances. This is not a political film, but a study of the human condition – it’s compelling viewing.

Isla was written and directed by the very talented Hector Hilleary; it’s a beautiful haunting script. Lachlan, played by Fabian Bevan, puts in a very strong performance as the protagonist supported by Naomi Colette as Isla. The director of photography, Mo Fiddian-Green, along with Hilleary, has chosen and executed complementary visuals, further enhancing the script perfectly. The musical accompaniment adds immeasurably to the whole production.

The most often forgotten person in any film is the producer; they have to show incredible tenacity, discipline and control to ensure the artistic interpretation of a film is coherent, budgeted and the whole cast works as a unit towards the director’s interpretive aim. Hattie Barnes has all of these skills in abundance.

Isla will be showing at the World Cinema Film Festival and New Renaissance Film Festival with screenings in London in October. If you can go and see Isla, go, you won’t be disappointed. Later in the year it will be uploaded to Vimeo.

Of the many things I can say about Isla there is also something I can say about the future of the British film industry. If it’s populated by the likes of Barnes and Hilleary then British film industry is in talented, skilful hands – beware Hollywood, they are coming.


Everyman Cinema – St James Quarter – 18:00 – find out more about the film at

Read more reviews on Scottish Field’s Fringe pages.

Plus, don’t miss the September issue of Scottish Field magazine.