Quick Hit: Varied tonal output but some solid writing and acting carry this short across the finish line.
Joel (John-Patrick Driscoll) is a professor consumed by the search for a missing poet and her work. Eventually this leads him to lose his job, because he hasn’t been doing his normal job duties. He returns home to find his wife (Elsa Carette) cheating on him with another man (Dustin Kyle).
First, this short started and I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I didn’t think it was going to be something that I thought about much later. In fact, the opening scenes of Joel in the office are very similar to another Don Swanson film I reviewed: A Wish For Giants. As the short continued, it evolved into a much deeper story, with some snappy humor and some deeply dramatic scenes. The drama mainly is pulled from the performance of Driscoll, who manages a lot on scenes when he is given a chance to flex his acting muscles. I thought some of the scenes later in the film were really effective because of his performance.
This performance clashed a bit with some of the humor in the film, which was probably my biggest issue with the whole thing. It caused a tonal imbalance between Driscoll’s performance and the work of someone like Dustin Kyle, who is just as good, but in a completely different way. Kyle really allows some of the lines to grow as he says them, and it makes them that much funnier (though I think Driscoll has the best line with his comparison of Kyle to Spartacus). But this doesn’t work very well with the images of Driscoll’s life falling apart, or the passionate sex scene that takes place in the short.
There are some other aspects to the film that don’t make sense, probably partially because of the short’s length (total including credits is only about 24 minutes). For instance, why doesn’t Kyle’s character cut and run? Why doesn’t Driscoll use some other formats to find this mysterious poet in his free time? And what makes Carette so deeply affected by his search? It’s all not quite laid out enough, even for a short film.
The only other complaint I had with the film was that the fight stunts probably need a little bit of work – there was some scenes that looked a bit like older Kung Fu movies with the rapid punching.
Despite the story shortcomings, there are other aspects to Swanson’s film I thought were well-handled. The set design was good, and always helped to tell the story of what was going on. I also thought the score played a huge part in the emotional ending, swelling at exactly the right portions with a beautiful, haunting piano medley.
In conclusion, I think that this film is a good step in the right direction, and that Swanson should be proud of what he and the team accomplished. I’m giving it a “B”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"