Since August (2023) Movie Review: Language plays a pivotal role in the world of cinema, serving as a powerful tool for storytelling and communication. Through dialogue, narration, or subtitles, language enables filmmakers to convey complex narratives, emotions, and cultural nuances to a global audience. It shapes character development, sets the tone, and adds depth to our cinematic experiences. In this digital age, where films are accessible worldwide, the importance of language in cinema cannot be overstated, as it bridges cultures, evokes empathy, and fosters a deeper connection between viewers and the art of filmmaking.
Among the languages used in films, American Sign Language (ASL) has emerged as a profound and transformative element in cinema. This expressive visual language, primarily used by the Deaf and hard of hearing communities, has opened new avenues for storytelling and representation on the silver screen. ASL facilitates communication and serves as a rich and authentic narrative tool, allowing Deaf characters to convey their emotions, culture, and experiences with depth and authenticity. Its presence in cinema has led to more inclusive storytelling, breaking down barriers, and fostering a greater understanding of Deaf culture. “Children of a Lesser God” (1986), “A Quiet Place” (2018), and “CODA” (2021) are some of the noteworthy films that included ASL in some capacity to portray the dialogues between the characters effectively.
In Diana Zuros’ labor of love “Since August,” ASL plays a pivotal role as a way of communication. It is a film that took almost a decade to complete and explores the theme of human’s desperate attempts to communicate. “Since August” is a poetic depiction of finding connections and ways to fit in. It shows Elizabeth (portrayed by Sabina Akhmedova), who is drawn to the world of a much older woman, Vedette (Antoinette Abbamonte), as she starts watching Vedette from a vacated apartment across the street.
She becomes intrigued by Vedette’s deafness and, in a desperate attempt to interact, starts learning ASL through YouTube videos and observing Vedette from a secluded apartment through binoculars. Elizabeth even enrolls in Vedette’s acting class. As time passes, they become fast friends despite Vedette’s initial skepticism and start to confide in each other, which later reveals more than what meets the eye.
“Since August” heavily relies upon the performances of its two leads, played by Sabina Akhmedova and Antoinette Abbamonte, who do wonders in their respective roles. Abbamonte, originally from the deaf community, brings diversity and inclusion to her performance as she shares an unanticipated intimate bond with Sabina’s Elizabeth. The chemistry the two leads share later in the film is one of the movie’s highlights, and both the actresses seem to have understood and carried forward their roles with utmost sincerity. Director Diana Zuros ensures that the portrayal of deaf and hard of hearing people doesn’t come across as caricaturish and showcases them with utmost candor and vigor.
Apart from ASL, director Diana Zuros has impeccably explored the characters’ body language and facial expressions to convey their emotions. As the characters share a bond and confide in each other, the relationship becomes more complex, and body language becomes more useful in the ensuing scenarios. The movie also deals with the issues of addiction and rehab and has a refreshing take on grief and trauma. Director Diana Zuros tells the story of bond, redemption, and forgiveness and peels layers of her story bit by bit.
Zuros’ film is also elevated by a haunting cello score from composer Maciej Zielinski, whose evocative cello pieces enhance the depth of the film both cinematically and emotionally. Scenes are captured with a DSLR Camera and have an elegant feel to them because Diana fuses her own vision into the camera by becoming the director of photography herself and directing and writing the script.
The film is not without its issues, however. It suffers from pacing issues at times. But this is just nit-picking to otherwise a fine piece of filmmaking that pushes boundaries in terms of the usage of ASL and the performers’ body language to tell a sincere tale. Ultimately, “Since August” is a brilliant visual exploration of connections born out of unexpected circumstances and explores an intimate and immersive portrayal of reclamation and amelioration. Filmmaker Diana Zuros has a clear vision of where she wants to take her story, and she will be someone to look forward to in the future, along with her cast, Antoinette Abbamonte and Sabina Akhmedova.