Star rating (out of 5): ★★★
Directed by: #Chantal Demorial
Written by: #Chantal Demorial
Arm’s Length written and directed by Chantal Demorial is a short comedy shot in black and white. It is a story about one man’s career failure (Peter Palmer played by Tim Martin), his family’s disappointment and his social entanglement as he comes to terms with his stark physical defect and his failed career aspirations ‘to make it’ in a world of wealth, corruption, nepotism and prejudices.
The story begins with Peter sat on the steps overlooking the Wall Street Stock Exchange, with one arm raised in the air. He looks forlorn as he reminisces about his childhood ambitions to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a successful city trader, an opportunity that is passing him by.
He dreams of making it by himself, as he trains hard and imagines in return for his trading prowess he will achieve the success he deserves and all the trappings that go with it. But this doesn’t match the reality and in his first interview he receives a swift rebuttal and his interviewer’s incredulous look says it all as he looks at Peter, with his up-stretched arm. His trading dreams are not going to materialise. He tries to find the right job to match his physical defect and starts working as a painter but when he sees some dapper looking young city workers in town, they give him a look of quite disdain and he breaks down. His final humiliation is when a beggar offers him some food and he finally snaps. He’s out of time and his dreams now change to seeing his father’s rejection and a new vision of him turning to stealing.
It’s searingly obvious from the outset that Peter’s absurd physical affliction is a major cause of his failure but this makes the physical comedy uneasy to laugh at as it points the finger at a more wider health and social care issue. Combine this with a series of socio-economic messages being bandied around like the Wall Street Stock Exchange, his family’s wealth, and the street beggars and performers, all the while with his arm raised in the air, makes this mostly distressful viewing rather than funny - although it’s hard not to laugh when he goes on his 1 minute rampage through the city to the melody of Dvorak’s Humoresque. At which point the tune suddenly switches up to a Saturday Night Fever vibe and Peter is looking like a really smug Greg Proops all of a sudden.
As a comedy, the film is a smart satire that takes the opportunity to get on the political soap box using Peter’s disposition and a variety of other guises to take a mocking nod at varying cross sections of the population with plenty of cliched Americanisms to enjoy like the Statue of Liberty and ‘the land of opportunity’, Wall Street's accountability, and for the uninitiated a seemingly random Ronald Reagan retaliatory cry.