Making a short film is never easy, as you have to create a sufficient enough story to entice in an audience, as well as create a three-act story. Short films are also extremely difficult to review, in this aspect. How can you truly pick apart and analyse a film that lasts about eight minutes? By focusing on the small things that little more, that help create a full story. I only hope my small effort of critique, can do justice to Redsky-film’s efforts.
The first thing I noticed about My Boy Jack, was the use of sound. The film begins with a cacophony of sound, before cutting silent. It then continues to utilise that silence for the first third of the story, filling moments without dialogue with either silence, or diagetic noise (the clicking of a clock, birds chirping), emphasising the normality of the characters, making the relationship between the two protagonists the focus of the audience.
This then leads into an undercurrent of score, one that seems to hint at what is to come, acting almost as a pre-warning. But the most recurring sound, is the clicking of a clock, representing the passages of time, the enveloping struggle of the repercussions of an individual. Lewis Dolan’s sound engineering was good to the point that I would use it as an example for others, at how every noise, ever part, makes a difference to the viewing of a movie. Steve Strong and Tom Quick, as the musicians, worked in great tandem with Lewis to create a soundtrack that could both hint and educate, giving connotations to every scene, the three of them should feel proud of their work.
The editing was a slightly slower homage to Edgar Wright, with mundane action made quick and interesting, to force the pace of the movie to keep moving. This is juxtaposed by static direction, one that like Sidney Lumet in 12 Angry Men, allows the actors to build upon themselves, not restricting them to one line and then cutting. The actors’ opportunity to breathe in their scenes almost means the characters go past a superfluous hint of characterisation, and start becoming three-dimensional. This comes to a crux at the end of the second act, when we reach the theme of the story, and the main protagonist’s motivation.
The movie focuses mostly, on Connor Reed’s performance and the emotionally bisected Jack. If Connor wasn’t good enough to carry this film, the whole thing would be lost. Thankfully, I thought his performance was multi-layered, one that gradually unpeels like an onion, to reveal unrealised aspects of the story and the character. Watching back afterwards, his body language and vocal tones craft a story that is given detail by the flashbacks. I was especially surprised as I thought Connor was quite wooden in the first few minutes, but his performance proved me wrong.
Vivien Goddard-Stephens strikes me as an intelligent director, one who knows when to do tricks (with a fascinating use of digital work that gives a psychological edge to the proceedings), and when to let the script and actors breathe. This is a short movie, where I don’t feel as if any moment is wasted, it all adds to an overall, solid piece of work, that leaves me curious to see what else Goddard-Stephens has done, or will do. However, I would love to see whether Goddard-Stephens will stick to what works, offering a Mike Leigh-esque closeness, or will she challenge herself with something different in her next film?
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