Directed by: Jay Martin Starring: Olivia Newton, Mark Jarvis, and Matthew Duff Short Film Review by: Owen Herman
“Forget it all” is the mysterious phrase that keeps reappearing in Sandra’s (Olivia Newton) life. Scribbled on a post-it note, it seems to never go away and, despite its sinister nature, perhaps it could even offer some help. This is the central riddle in Jay Martin’s Catharsis, a short that takes a dark look at recovery from tragedy.
Beginning with fading memories, Catharsis follows Sandra, a woman whose life is unravelling after the loss of her daughter. The premise and mysteries of the film are interesting, but unfortunately, they are carried out in an unsatisfying way, leaving the viewer a bit cold to what should have been an emotional journey. The problem centres around scenes in a drug den. The film focuses far too much on this location. As soon as the nefarious dealer opens the door, you know exactly what is going to happen. This takes away from the eerily mysterious opening and slows the short down too much. More time should have been spent with Sandra prior to these moments, both to prolong the intrigue and further develop the character.
Olivia Newton puts in a very good performance, but the supporting cast is noticeably weaker, which often makes it harder to immerse yourself into the short. One of the better elements of Catharsis is the use of colours and blur to portray memories. The blurring early on is very effective at creating that feeling of images painfully fading from memory. The sudden appearance of vivid colour adds a real layer of emotion to the recollections, showing how they were a much better time in Sandra’s increasingly problematic life.
Catharsis has some great ideas behind it, and it executes some of them very well. However, it fails to be gripping, despite its brilliant opening. More could’ve been done to encourage the audience to ask questions. Early on you are led to believe this may be a thought-provoking and eerie thriller, but the ending is disappointingly simple. The film certainly has good moments, but it just doesn’t come together as it should. The overall experience can engage but is ultimately unsatisfying.