”"I saw that through me opening up, others felt empowered to also be vulnerable, and with this I realised that the film had the potential to help others on their own journeys."David Allain
In David Allain’s Revelations, a cinematic short film about family, grief, and acceptance, a young man, Drew, attends the funeral of his estranged mother and remembers a few moments that defined their relationship. Despite years of pain, Drew decides to see if his family’s differences can be reconciled before time runs out.
Written and directed by British scriptwriter and director David Allain, Revelations stars Joshua Riley, Wil Johnson (also seen in House of the Dragon), Kola Bokinni (seen in Ted Lasso) and Lola Mae Loughran (seen in In From the Cold). Revelations is the most personal project to date for Allain, whose award-winning work includes advertising and shorts for clients such as the BBC and CNN. The director also regularly works with charities including charity CALM, which raises mental health awareness, and SHELTER, the organisation tackling homelessness.
Revelations was inspired by true events and Allain’s relationship with his late mother, and won the Directors UK x ARRI Challenge Alexa, a competition that supports emerging British directors.
The film explores several themes linked to this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, loneliness, and serves as a great platform to explore family ties and community, and their impact on the adults we become. We spoke to David Allain on the release of Revelations about raising awareness around mental health, making art from grief, and the power of letting go.
Why was it so important to make this film?
Revelations came about through a competition run by Directors UK and ARRI; in late 2019, I applied to make a fictional scene very loosely inspired by some personal experiences. The competition judges encouraged me to try and tell a more personal story that drew more heavily on my past. Through making the film, it became layered with greater meaning: as we built our team and made Revelations, across 2 years following repeated delays due to the pandemic, I saw that it had the power to start important conversations and help people at a crucial point in their lives. What started as me exploring some of my grief soon became a vehicle for others to progress their own grief journeys too.
What was the main inspiration behind it?
The film closely reflects my own life story: I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness but left the sect as a teenager. A couple of years later, my parents gave me an ultimatum: return to their religion or they would stop talking to me. Fundamentally, I could not live my life practicing anything that forbids homosexuality and renounces gender equality, among other things. Much later, I heard from my parents for the first time in years: my mother was terminally ill. Time to reconcile our differences was running out. It is impossible to fit 15 years into 15 minutes, but the film is inspired by my experiences of family estrangement, grief, and my journey towards finding acceptance.
What would you say is the biggest takeaway in Revelations?
Vulnerability begets vulnerability. For years, I was ashamed of how my parents had treated me and kept it secret for a long time. Later, I knew I’d made the right choices and started to talk about it. People encouraged me to tell my story and shared their own experiences about family, religion or grief. They are such universal and timeless things, it is unsurprising that nearly everyone has something to share on those topics. And as I started to make the film, strangers opened up to me with the most personal stories, crying and sharing feelings about unresolved grief or family fallouts. I saw that through me opening up, others felt empowered to also be vulnerable, and with this I realised that the film had the potential to help others on their own journeys.
Why did you choose to explore the themes of grief and mental health?
I often write stories that explore things that I am experiencing – it helps me make sense of life and what I’m feeling. My mother had died the year before I pitched the idea. I’d already written something that explored ideas around grief at a more superficial level and wanted to go deeper this time: I didn’t anticipate how deep this project would go, but am very glad for where it went.