Setting, framing, atmosphere, and timing

Elements such as setting, framing, atmosphere and title are important to any movie as they can contribute to improving the film and making the overall theme clearer. We will now turn our attention on the way this elements function in “AWOL” by Deb Shoval.


By setting we refer to where and when the action of a film takes place, including the socio-cultural context.

In “AWOL”, the setting, according to the plot line, is rural Pennsylvania, after the war in Afghanistan started. This general setting includes several smaller settings: the rural area during winter with natural landscapes, the house where Joey’s parents live, Rayna’s house and the bus station.



Framing refers to the way images are filmed and put together in a film. If you pay close attention, you will notice that the way the movie was shot resembles a documentary. The images seem unedited.

Another aspect about the framing is that the camera only follows Joey and that she appears in all the frames.



Much of the setting, framing and characters’ act set the atmosphere in “AWOL”.  By atmosphere we refer to the general feeling and impression a movie creates.

Reflect on how the isolated setting creates a feeling of desolation and a tense atmosphere. At Joey’s home, the atmosphere is probably the tensest.



The title of the movie, “AWOL”, is in fact a military term that means an army officer is absent from his post without official permission, yet with no intention to actually desert. In fact, the word is an acronym for “absent without official leave”.


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