‘The First Dance’ as reviewed by Emily Thomas

Focusing on a young woman and her fear of marital life, The First Dance (Daragh Goan, Caoilinn Handley) is a sensitive and emotional portrayal of the breakdown of a relationship. The short centres around a wedding dance in which the bride imagines life with her husband and slowly decides to take control of the future she faces.

The complex use of colour is perhaps the most striking and effective feature of the film, and one that truly gives the viewer insight into the mental state of the main character. The first shot exemplifies this nuanced use of colour: black ash from the bride’s cigarette stains the purity of her white dress as she smokes nervously outside. Soft, muted background lighting suggests peace as the first dance begins, although harsher tones are introduced as the bride’s anxiety increases and she sees herself losing control of her life.  

The actors age well in the bride’s imagination as they navigate the ups and downs of marriage, and one particularly moving scene shows the husband and wife playing with their young daughter. The touching moment is bathed in a golden light, conveying the joy felt by the couple and the solidarity between the two: a solidarity sadly undermined as their future together pans out. Purple enhances the grotesque and oppressive: the onlookers at the wedding are bathed in an ominous light as they judge the young couple and spark doubt in the bride’s mind.

The absence of dialogue in the film adds greatly to the sensory experience of the piece- we are deeply immersed in the physicality of the relationship between the actors and its expression through dance. The lead actors are cast brilliantly and have an established physical chemistry, making the development and break down of their relationship all the more poignant.

With stunning and emotive visuals, a strong cast and innovative use of a student budget, The First Dance is an absolute must see- one that stayed with me long after my first viewing.