14 June 2024

Film Review – Cicada (2020)

It can only take a second to trigger a memory. A sound, a smell – and they can sneak up on you when you least expect it, especially when you thought they were buried so deep they’d never re-surface. It can be a shattering experience.

Those after-shocks are never far away for the two men at the centre of Cicada, a New York love story which treads the line between drama and documentary with an almost balletic delicacy. Ben (Matthew Fifer) leads an emotionally empty life, full of meaningless physical encounters but meeting Sam (Sheldon D Brown) changes all that. They are, however, very different people. Sam wants to keep their relationship secret – as the only black person at his company, he feels conspicuous – while Ben disguises his feelings by appearing to be a joker, never taking anything seriously. But both have their scars: Sam’s are mental and physical, the result of a drive-by shooting, Ben’s are just as deep but started somewhere else. The only way for them to move forward is to confront them …..

Related Post: Cicada  Video Interview – Matt Fifer And Sheldon D Brown

Painful memories are prompted by the most ordinary of moments. A car backfires, Sam mistakes it for a gunshot and is devastated by a severe panic attack. Ben can’t escape the coverage of a child abuse trial: it’s on the TV in the bar he goes to, it’s on the radio news where he works, it’s everywhere and the moment it enters his orbit, he looks like a haunted, terrified child. For the two actors, who also co-wrote the screenplay, their own experiences play a crucial role in the narrative (they explain more in our exclusive interview) and it gives the film an immediate authenticity, encouraging us to invest in both men and, to coin a phrase, walk a mile in their shoes.

For a story full of melodramatic possibilities, it’s been approached in a restrained, measured way, which is to the credit of directors Fifer and Kieran Mulcare, who assume enough emotional intelligence on the part of the audience not to show every crucial moment. That they’re left to our imagination simply makes them more powerful and the chemistry between the two actors further underlines this. There are times when Brown looks the more natural in front of the camera but, ultimately, they’re a pair that encourage our sympathy and who we are happy to get to know as they grow closer to each other.

Honesty, sincerity and courage are woven into the fabric of the film, along with an sense of catharsis which is unavoidable, given the story’s origins. For once, the phrase “based on true events” really gives the film an emotional weight – and they really are true.


Drama | Cert: 15 | Cinemas and online from 21 January 2022 | Peccadillo Pictures | Dirs. Matthew Fifer, Kieran Mulcare | Matthew Fifer, Sheldon D Brown, Cobie Smulders, Scott Adsit, Sandra Bauleo.

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