Spotlight: Distressed (2020)

Director: Martin Sandin

Starring: Carl Ingemarsson Stjernlöf

Review Author: Tony

Synopsis: Nathan arrives at a secluded cabin in the woods in his funeral attire and with a downtrodden and beaten manner.

I’m delighted to announce another Spotlight entry this year from director Martin Sandin, who impressed me massively with his short film Foggy Days, earlier this year. Getting the opportunity to review two short films from the same filmmaker, in the same year is a first for the site, and I sincerely thank Sandin for receiving a second opportunity to view his work. Distressed is a very different story and another fine example of Sandin’s talent at weaving a story from deep and personal themes.

Foggy Days was wonderfully layered short film with a universal story at its centre but shown from the perspective of two characters and given a contemporary surface. Distressed is a far more contained story with a simple premise that really delves into the subject of both grief and loss. It’s an honest and unflinching examination of how a personal tragedy can cause us to withdraw back into ourselves and enter a state of simply going through the motions as the world passes us by.


Impressively shot with a minimal location that uses a variety of set pieces, the cabin in the woods is a metaphor for the isolation Nathan is experiencing as he is essentially locking himself away from the world. There’s a haunting tone to the cinematography as you feel the presence of Nathan’s daughter always, and yet he looks so alone. The mix of wide shots and close-ups captures the seclusion of the setting, but also the weight of Nathan’s predicament as he looks disheveled and lost.

Carl Ingemarsson Stjernlöf is a revelation as our leading man, Nathan. What starts as an understated performance full of melancholic drowsiness soon explodes into cathartic fits of anger and rage. You buy into Nathan’s sadness, regret and anguish because Stjernlöf embodies it so perfectly with sparse dialogue and simple facial expressions.


Distressed lacks any kind of conclusion, which is a conscious choice on Sandin’s part. Grief is not a symptom that can be cured by the wave of a wand or by reading a book, it’s an engulfing emotion that sticks with us and may linger our entire life span. The stillness of grief is perfectly captured, it’s a mental prison that locks us away from the world and the ones we love. Distressed has no need for a conclusion because deep themes do not need to be explored with traditional storytelling constructs, not every story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Author: Reel Time Flicks

Passionate about film and writing since 2015.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s