Directed by: #RamiElHarayri
Written by: Rami El Harayri
Animated & Edited by: #JohnMcGrew
Short Film Review by: Will Girling
An Unfinished Love (2019) is the sixth directorial effort from Rami El Harayri. A charmingly crafted stop motion short, the film possesses a tender subtlety that belies its 4-minute run-time, exceptional pacing throughout, and enough writing tricks up its sleeve to deliver a superb emotional punch at the end.
In an idyllic village park on a sunny day, Robert proposes to Sarah and she gladly accepts. Their peace is short-lived, however, as the scene fades out and comes back to reveal the war-torn trenches of World War One. Robert has been enlisted and placed on the frontlines, but his thoughts never stray too far from Sarah, even when he narrowly avoids the bullet with his name on it. After accidentally losing a letter he is writing to send her, Robert returns from France to find a different world from the one he left behind. Now, without Sarah and without a purpose, he must find a reason to keep living.
Despite the lack of dialogue between the characters, An Unfinished Love succeeds in conveying the bond that Robert and Sarah share, and particularly the pining affection that Robert feels as he literally fights for his life. The transitions between periods of time are well executed by El Harayri; it is a lean story with no filler and with every scene contributing to the overall piece. There is a faux-resolution towards the end when Robert is an old man that I was genuinely moved by, as it expressed a bittersweet yearning that most films simply can’t achieve. The only qualm I have with the story is the lack of explanation for why Sarah goes missing from Robert’s life, particularly considering the ultimate resolution. Couldn’t he have just written another letter? I suppose the army was just very tight on paper and ink rations…
However, it is the truly fantastic animation by John McGrew that steals the show. In a story orbiting around the sun of innocence and the subsequent loss of it, stop motion provides the perfect aesthetic compliment: child-like, whimsical and full of heart. For me, it’s reminiscent of Mary and Max (2009) and it’s a real pleasure to watch a film where the story-telling medium is so interconnected with the story itself. Particularly praise should go to McGrew for the way in which he makes the action-figure faces, with very little contortion, express such a spectrum of emotions; an arching of the eyebrows and a pursing of the lips is sometimes all it takes, and the audience is never in doubt as to what’s on the character’s minds. Coupled with a bright and breezy orchestral score through-out, this feels like something that could be a children’s classic straight out of the late 60’s/early 70’s.
I had a lot of fun watching An Unfinished Love: it has the charm of The Clangers or Wallace and Gromit and the unity of concept of a Bob Dylan song. We can only hope, with the quality of this output, that El Harayri and McGrew team up again in the near future. Any lover of animated cinema should see and appreciate this movie.