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April short film review

★★★★

Directed by: Spencer Anderson


 

April movie poster
April movie poster

Difficult parent/child relationships are a challenge at the best of times. Trying to convince a son or daughter to wear a raincoat or finish their alphabetti-spaghetti is a pain when there’s a lack of connection. Imagine how difficult it would be to survive with them post-apocalypse? April is a short film that features such a dilemma.


Jordan (Oscar King) fights against the elements, shadowy unseen dangers and his own tortured past as he accompanies his young daughter April (Ruby Rae) to a safe haven known as ‘The Vale’. With her mother ominously absent, Jordan must find a way to connect to April as they travel the land and handle unexpected challenges.


April is an alluringly concise film which tells an affecting short story whilst creating a much bigger, intriguing world for it to be told in. We see only a small snippet of what life is like for Jordan and April and how their relationship became strained, but Spencer Anderson’s visionary direction gives an incredible amount of context about their situation. Short, solemn scenes such as the simple opening of Jordan digging a hole, are allowed to breath and linger with the viewer, telling us all we need to know without any words necessary.


Production is slick, with excellent use of lighting (particularly in the pair’s hideout) and editing which weaves gracefully with the soundtrack. The film manages to build tension and an element of danger without ever becoming frantic or resorting to predictable post-apocalyptic cliches. It is refreshing for a film in what is an overcrowded genre to take its time, and appropriate given that at the heart of the film is the struggling relationship between father and daughter.


Plot-wise, the film leaves a lot to the audience’s imagination and confidently omits explanation of more fantastical or sci-fi-heavy developments. This is no detraction from the character-focused story which puts the relationship between the two leads at the heart, and builds each of the pair slowly and patiently to explain the rift. It is the characters and their journey which grab the audience’s intrigue, not sci-fi jargon or a full history of how their world came to be. Anderson understands this, and focuses much of the film’s short running time in the right places.


Oscar King’s portrayal of Jordan is discreetly striking. Clearly unprepared for the task life has assigned him, his youthful and masculine determination to stay strong in a dangerous world is a hardened survival mechanism, yet also a major barrier preventing him from connecting with his daughter. But it is Ruby Rae who steals the show. The young actress gives a performance far beyond her years, with both curiosity and maturity mixed into April that hints at a displaced life for a child that damages her own ability to relate to others, through no fault of her own. Both performances effectively portray a chasm between the father and daughter – an interesting example of what could be described as ‘anti-chemistry’. But with each having relatable and empathetic sides on show, viewers will be convinced they can bridge the gap, and will root for them to do so.


A fine example of ‘less-is-more’, April recognises that engrossing and intriguing worlds can be created on screen without pages of dialogue or precious minutes of screen-time being expended, and instead focuses on a complex relationship between well-built characters which grabs audience attentions far more firmly to tell a high-quality story.



 

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