An earnest, plaintive piano melody opens as desperate figures stare out into the middle distance. A woman drops in on an old flame, using some flimsy pretext neither of them believe for a moment. What follows is a terse, tense, and incredibly human exchange as our two protagonists verbally fence over decaf and destiny.
And it’s good.
It’s really, really good.
Two individuals of differing (but equally compelling) perspectives clash over tea. It’s as simple a set-up as you can imagine, but director Mark J. Blackman manages to wring both depth and emotion from it. Sienna (Katie Goldfinch of Crucible of the Vampire, Genie in the House) and Elliot (Johnny Sachon of Cloud 9, Late Shift) examine each others’ lives, what they themselves have become in their time apart, and what they could have become. It’s a beautifully ****ed-up My Dinner With Andre, keeping in mind that I’ve never seen My Dinner With Andre and all I have to go on is Wallace Shawn’s showdown in The Princess Bride.
Goldfinch and Sachon deliver their performances flawlessly and there are plenty of shots of gorgeous scenery to contrast the beauty of the world against its own cruel indifference (yes, some of the existential elements hit a little closer to home than I’m comfortable admitting). While Animus is (as the director himself said) far from the sci-fi-urban-fantasy mashup that was NEON, the trademark style is definitely present. As is one of the problems.
While eleven minutes of film doesn’t exactly give anyone time to dawdle, Sienna and Elliot’s conversation does move forward relentlessly. The viewer is left to stitch the story together from clues dropped in the conversation, and while that’s definitely adds to the realism, it can be a bit taxing at times- especially when we suspect that the characters might not be giving the full truth. It would be nice, here and there, to have a moment to really reflect on the dialogue and its implications, but all-in-all, these are small issues in what’s otherwise a really solid film.
Animus has won the award of merit at the One Reeler short film competition in Los Angeles. Stayed tuned for our upcoming interview with actor and producer Johnny Sachon.