Can you explain the use of drugs in the film?
Drugs; in this environment, generation and sub culture, are completely normalised. There is really nothing shocking for me about it; this is simply the way they integrate drugs into their daily lives. There is nothing gratuitous about their use, explicit maybe. It is very realistic in that way and was heavily researched. The people who take heroin in the film are all over 20, so they are adults not children. I would guess that the characters in the film had been using for at least two years so they would have begun at around 18. That’s consistent with what I’ve seen. Whenever I would return to the area where I grew up – and where the film is shot - every 6 months or so, I would be told about another old friend who was dead through hard drug use, then my little brother started to tell me the same stories about his friends. There was a period when it was very extreme. The local newspapers would be full of it. I would see kids in the local pubs who were obviously using. After a while it loses its shock value. As for ecstasy or cannabis use, that is just a daily routine for many, at least for a certain period of time in their lives. Some go deeper and move onto crack or heroin, others decide to stop. As for doing it when they are so young, it’s just a mixture of boredom, availability and curiosity. There is obviously something missing from their lives and they have found something that can fill it, the only problem is that it may kill them in the process. It seems to be a way of anaethesting themselves against the world and its demands. A kind of self-medication that creates a world that is easier for them to deal with. It becomes a controllable form of happiness, like a relationship. Through the research some users would refer to drugs like they were their closest friend, a confidant, a lover. What is incredible, is how as individuals, they appear to believe that they are somehow immune to it, even when their closest friends are dying around them they will still chase heroin before and after the funeral and think that it will not happen to them. They don’t see it in its context. Their youth makes them feel they are immortal. Or maybe they don’t care about the consequences of an overdose and its possible finality.
The majority of the cast are adolescents as with your previous shorts - what is it about this age that you find so interesting? In Better Things there are a number of older characters but very few middle-aged people almost as if those who are responsible for both the old and young are absent - any particular reason for this?
With regards to the younger characters part of this is in the previous answer. It is their potential and their capacity for change and extreme behaviour. Throughout my short films I’ve always been fascinated by their ability to refuse to appreciate or accept consequences and their ability for casual cruelty, we see this with LARRY’S friends. With the older characters I was interested in several things, firstly the idea of a lamenting for a partner when you are at the end of your life - NAN’S situation - which can then be connected to the situation of ROB as he laments the loss of his girlfriend. Also this allowed me to compare the isolation of GAIL and NAN. Both are housebound, one through a psychological agoraphobia and one through a physical frailty. They have a shared problem. Secondly, I was interested in the silent frustrations and secrets that can grow within a long-term relationship. This is THE GLADWINS story and it allowed me to then compare this with a younger couple LARRY & RACHEL. Contrasting how intense romantic feelings when spurned or not reciprocated can undermine ones grip on reality and change your behaviour. As for the lack of middle-aged characters, we had material for this age group but I cut it out. It upset the balance of the narrative. The themes of the film revealed themselves better with a starker contrast between young and old.