Written and Directed by: #JohnDoherty
Short Film Review by #ChrisBuick
With their father having already spent an indeterminate amount of time on life support and the medical bills still coming in thick and fast, two brothers decide that it’s time to put an end to their old man’s suffering. Or at least that’s what they tell themselves in an attempt to ease their conscience as well as their wallets. They enlist the help of an unhinged dentist with a complete absence of ethics who offers to discreetly help their father pass on for a cost, but of course things are never that simple.
Based on its simple and morally ambiguous concept alone, there is an obvious well of potential in #shortfilm Assistance that could have really been something with some proper care. Yet while every aspect of the film does manage to achieve a somewhat okay standard, a somewhat okay film is sadly all we get, with the sum of its parts unfortunately unable to make a greater whole.
Billed as a dark comedy, the film does indeed deliver with its macabre sensibilities, but any kind of humour worth mentioning seems to have been forgotten about, with the only noticeable attempt at a joke concerning easy target Maroon 5 landing with a clang. Not only do the laughs not translate, but any kind of profound statements or social commentary the film tries to make on its long-debated subject matter is either too short, too vague or simply not clever enough to leave you with any kind of afterthought for discussion.
The other aspect of the project that also underserves the film, arguably the most vital but certainly the most obvious, is the performances. Doherty as Brother One (starring as well as writing and directing) actually isn’t half bad, seemingly having a touch more conviction in his own words than the others and Forbes (Brother Two) has some good moments once he gets into his stride and manages to shakily carry the films moral compass. But it’s all feels a bit hit or miss, and in the case of the supporting characters, definitely miss. What’s most frustrating in fact is that these unconvincing turns from the bit players actually prevent the film's final scenes from delivering the final payoff its hoping for, bar one inspired individual giving his all.
What does stand out positively here are two things; look and sound. Starting soft with some gentle interludes between scenes, the music eventually picks up speed, getting you somewhat engaged and it’s a shame it comes too close to the end. There are also some slick swipes, cuts and moving shots that not only give the film some much needed edge and pace, but also manage to match the beat of the accompanying music in a way that feels almost Edgar Wright-esque, which is certainly something worth aspiring too.
Doherty clearly has some good ideas though and with some more experience that promise could become something special. But while it’s a valiant attempt at tackling a big issue, it feels like all aspects of Assistance could do with being tightened up a notch.
Watch the trailer here: