Interview: Director Saul Abraham on directing short film Enjoy and exploring men’s mental health

Statistics regarding the prevalence of mental illness in men today have become a more commonly known factor as the walls of machoism continue to break down.  No longer a subject that goes undiscussed, the depression aspect of a man’s mental psyche is at the centre of Saul Abraham‘s striking short film, Enjoy.

Following its screening at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival (read our review here), Peter Gray and Abraham discussed the film’s realistic tone and the collaborative process with writer Callum Cameron.

The film felt incredibly personal and grounded in a realism. Is this a subject you have any connection to?

The film is based on writer Callum Cameron’s real experiences as a home tutor.  He very beautifully used that teacher and pupil dynamic as a vehicle to explore those themes on mental health across different generations of males.  I was struck by how delicately he handled feelings of misery, guilt, shame and worry whilst still making something warm, hopeful and funny.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at times when first reading the script.  It’s so struck that right balance and he did it beautifully.

We wanted to approach men’s mental health in a way I feel we rarely see depicted on screen.  Although in different life stages, Michael and Archie are both suffering with neither having the language to express it.  As Michael retreats into himself, Archie acts out – both reactions to not understanding their sadness.

On the surface they both have solid support networks – Michael has a loving girlfriend in Katie, Archie a doting mother in Laura.  However they feel they don’t have the right to be sad when everything around them is okay, which prevents them from talking even more.

We felt that often in cinema, stories centred around masculinity focus on something physical or ‘macho’ as a vehicle to show a character’s crisis underneath.  In Enjoy, neither character is overtly masculine or needs to assert their authority in the classic patriarchal sense, yet they still can’t show vulnerability. This film aimed to shed light on what is entrenched in men as a whole.

Your directing career has been predominantly in short features. Any plans to direct anything of feature length?

Yes I’ve really enjoyed making short films and think I always will. Would love to get the opportunity to make a feature of course.  Callum and I are in development on a few projects – fingers crossed!

How did Himesh Patel become involved?

We love working with Himesh.  He’s been a friend of ours for a while now but this was the first time we’ve worked with him.  The role was written for him and we were so happy when he responded to the script and wanted to be involved.  He so beautifully balances the comedy and drama and created a believable and real character with actually very few lines which in a short film is so hard to do.

How collaborative was it with writer Callum Cameron?

Callum was fully in the trenches with me every step of the way on this.  The story is very personal to him so it made sense for him to be part of everything and I loved that collaboration.  We developed the script together over a number of years and it became a vehicle in which we were able to talk about our own feelings.  We’ve been friends for years but by going through this process together we’ve become closer and able to talk about things more easily than we may have done in the past which is probably the best thing to come out of the film personally.  I’m very proud of him.

Enjoy screened as part of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival and Palm Springs International Short Fest.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.

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