UK (2012) Dir. Dominic Ryan
A slight change of tact for this site, as I am reviewing an independent short film made by a talented young British actor, Dominic Ryan, who has been developing this film for the past couple of years and it finally came to fruition at the end of 2012.
The story is fairly straightforward: a young woman Annie (Anna Boettcher) has been kidnapped by Seth (Ryan), an employee of Annie’s father with a huge grievance against his boss. Annie is perplexed by Seth’s demands for some passwords and or indeed why he has such ill feelings towards her father, but after the lines of communication become freer both captor and captive realise they are very similar with Annie’s father being the common denominator.
It would be easy to dismiss this for having a frequently explored plot but it is what you do with it that counts, and Ryan has added his own twist to the story to make it a worthwhile watch. At just 32 minutes and with just two characters, things move at a fair pace but all of the essential points are made and conveyed sufficiently enough to tell a complete story. However which such limitations developments forced through at a quicker pace and some details are left open which might be of detriment for some, but not every filmmaker wants to spoon feed their audience.
The conceit is that we don’t actually know what Annie’s father did that was so terrible but the scars it left – both physical and mental – speak volumes loud enough to create a unique air of mystery surrounding the sympathy our two characters engender from the audience. Seth isn’t a bad man but a desperate one who realises he is clearly out of his depth but as he slowly opens up to Annie, his reasons for his actions run much deeper than hatred for his employer. For Annie, she is a bit more of a closed book making for a more interesting character but to say anymore would spoil the outcome and thus the unique twist I mentioned earlier, but its certainly not one you will see coming.
Being a two hander Dominic Ryan and Anna Boettcher have the sole responsibility of keeping the audience into the story which they achieve with nuanced and neatly crafted performances. Ryan has that everyman look about him which allows him to play vulnerable and flawed characters with believability. Boettcher is similar – physically slight yet she has an alluring presence capable of drawing the viewer into the world of a multi-layered character. There is one interesting scene which is as close to a sexual connection as we get as Annie asks for a cigarette despite not being smoking; Seth obliges but blows the smoke into her face in a way which she seems to ignite a tacit sense of understanding. Oblique but quite striking.
For a short independent film on a low budget, one has to expect certain restrictions on the production front – even if one can do marvels with computers these days – but this isn’t a story that requires anything more than the low key but effective Ryan works well within his means, creating an uneasy and palpable mood with some smart camerawork, lighting, creative editing and an ominous soundtrack. However they are handicapped by some sound issues, which one could attribute to the poor acoustics of the basement setting where most of the action takes place. Ryan’s voice is occasionally lost in the muddy bottom end frequencies while Boettcher’s accent masks some of her quieter spoken lines, but on the whole most of the dialogue is intelligible.
Stockholm is an ambitious project for a debuting director but Dominic Ryan has clearly picked up a lot from his many acting experiences to put them to good use in bringing this labour of love to life. The end result is an assured work that shows what you can do if you when you throw some new ideas at an old concept and that the future of British independent short film scene is in good hands.