Directed by Avery Cohen
Starring Josh Cohen, Jack O'Brien, Eva Poleschuk, & Mary Purcell
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
Introspective and intense, short film Burnt Ashes, written and directed by Avery Cohen, is a familiar fable about the search for identity which is often enhanced by, ironically, stumbling on the right person to show you a different path.
The movie is set around the mundane life of Ash (Josh Cohen), a young man with little to celebrate, who meets Kai (Jack O'Brien) whilst attending a meeting for anxiety and depression sufferers. After ridiculing many of the attendees, Kai reveals himself to have an alternative attitude towards life which at first seems attractive to Ash. However, as the drama unfolds, more of the picture becomes clear revealing more uncertainty about life in Kai than he would like to admit to.
Whilst the story here is made up of common themes, there is a freshness to the delivery of Cohen's film - most notably in the framing of the scenes. The camera provides an intrusive and claustrophobic atmosphere by delivering a collage of intense close ups, out of focus mid range shots, and jolting, sharp cuts which elicit a feeling of discomfort for the viewer. By capturing the core of the idea and building on it with the framing, the visuals never feel lacking in meaning. This is powerful filmmaking and something to be applauded.
There do exist, however, some glaring flaws in Cohen's film, in particular the dialogue. Shallow and full of bro's, buddy's, and boy banter, the lines delivered by Josh Cohen and Jack O'Brien never quite live up to the aesthetics of the movie. The scenes get largely filled up with inconsequential nattering, whilst the heavier motifs are squeezed into the final few minutes of Burnt Ashes. In one scene during the anxiety meeting, the actors were rushing through their lines so quickly there was no mood being created and the performers seemed like they were in their first rehearsal of the sequence. The performances are not particularly impressive, although Josh Cohen showed a decent degree of chops during some of his solo moments.
That being said, Burnt Ashes is a worthy film, if, for nothing else, tackling multiple issues attached to youth and identity within the short space it does. There is an emotional depth to the film, which is brought more by the visual filmmaking than the plot or characters. Viewers who watch the film and embrace the nature of the camerawork, sound, and mise-en-scène, will enjoy the spoils of Cohen's handiwork.