Best British 2021

Split Sole

Against a backdrop of toxic masculinity and homophobia, two young men secretly express their feelings for each other through ballroom dance.

DIRECTOR: Barnaby Boulton
PRODUCER: Sara Sehdev & James Cummings
WRITER: Barnaby Boulton
UK, 13 Minutes

We meet Lewis in a park with his mates. They discuss Lewis’ fresh black eye, which Lewis plays off as an injury received whilst avoiding a moped mugging. But Lewis isn’t really present in the conversation; he’s distracted by his phone, texting someone. Eventually, Lewis has to leave to go to “work”, forgoing plans he had with his friends. He kisses his girlfriend goodbye and heads out.

Meanwhile, we meet Zach in his bedroom, packing a backpack and sorting out his hair. On the way out he’s confronted by his mum, who is worried he’s going to end up in trouble. He assures her that he isn’t, and that he won’t be home too late.

Lewis and Zach meet at an underpass and begin walking through London. Zach has no idea where they’re going, but Lewis is confident, though a little standoffish. They arrive at a nondescript building and Lewis breaks the padlock off the back door. They begin to explore the building, eventually revealing it to be a grand and beautiful theatre.

Lewis and Zach share a joint whilst sitting on the edge of the stage and talk a little. Lewis admits that his dad is the reason for his black eye. Before Zach has any time to respond, Lewis stands, still seeming a little impatient. It’s time to do what they came to the theatre to do. Zach gets up and pulls a bluetooth speaker from his bag. He plays hip hop music and they begin dancing, almost like a dance-off.

Zach gives Lewis a pair of split sole jazz shoes, and insists that Lewis puts them on as they’re meant to “help”. The next song is a lot slower and smoother than the previous, and the pair begin a beautiful, imperfect, yet very intimate ballroom dance routine, something they’ve been practicing. They reach the climax of the dance and find themselves face to face in an embrace, but the moment doesn’t last long. Before they can kiss, they hear the sound of a door somewhere in the theatre and scatter in opposite directions, leaving the stage empty.

 

Director and writer of the award winning student shorts “A Place For Everything” and “Wanderlust”, Barnaby worked as as director’s assistant on season one and two of the hit Netflix show “Bridgerton”, and is currently working as a director’s assistant on season 2 of “Avenue 5”.