★★★ Directed by: Borja Moreno Written by: Borja Moreno Starring: Ryan Stillman, Bella Popa Short Film Review by: Chris Olson
The self-annihilating anxiety which can only come from having a bad haircut gets explored in this quick-fire comedy from filmmaker Borja Moreno. Simply titled A Man, this short film explores the innate human ability to convince ourselves of anything, good or bad, as long as we keep telling ourselves to just accept and embrace.
Self-help author Paul (Ryan Stillman) is in the throes of an awful day when we are first introduced to him. He has attempted to get a stylish new haircut based on a stock model photo of “A Man”, only for it to turn out like a tribute to some of the worst 80’s glam rock bands in history. Giving himself a dose of the ol’ self-deprecating inner torture whilst in an elevator, things get worse when the neighbour he has a crush on called Lara (Bella Popa) gets in. Whom, as fate would have it, is a big fan of Paul’s self-help books but, due to his new coiffure, has no idea that she is now in an elevator with him.
Energetic from the start, A Man keeps a lively pace throughout and audiences will feel the thrill of the snappy dialogue and sharp editing for sure. Both performances are solid, especially Stillman whose tortured narration is probably the funniest aspect of the piece. The chemistry between the two is believable and engaging.
The sound design was a little heavy-handed, contributing well to the tempo of the short but also keeping the audience from feeling any sense of connection to either character. The atmosphere was too chaotic and frenetic to allow a stronger sense of empathy to emerge. Instead, the tone of Moreno's movie is lighter, going for quick laughs and shallower characterisation. One such example is the phrase that Paul refers to his inglorious hairdresser by, “Tits Mcgee”.
Aesthetically, Moreno brings some compelling spectacle. Mostly utilising the small elevator space, he manages to maintain the vibrancy and aforementioned pace even without a multitude of locations. By layering the piece with Paul's overvoice, depth is created, as well as using an almost dreamlike sequence when he goes in for a [SPOILER START] smooch [SPOILER END] which played with the lighting superbly.
The use of a self-help author as its main character was a smart move, and had Moreno explored this in a more substantial manner I would have been ready to...ahem...embrace. I think there is a wonderful screenplay out there that could take this and get something really intelligent and biting as well as being funny. As it is, A Man is happy being a glossy and impressive poster that is, ultimately, flat.