Written and Directed by Guillermo Peña Sánchez
Starring Eleanore Knox, Jamila Hall, Donna Randall, Mara Jean Quinn, Oscar Bishop, Estelle Healy
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
As the title suggests, Guillermo Peña Sánchez's short film Cheat Happens is a tongue-in-cheek take on promiscuity in the modern world. Tackling such issues as: is it cheating if the bloke wears a condom? And, as long as everyone is happy, does it really matter how many lady gardens get watered?
Eleanore Knox plays the lead role of Ashley, a catholic schoolgirl who is seeking absolution, or at least some semblance of reassurance, having recently cheated on her choirboy boyfriend (Oscar Bishop). First trying the pious clarity of Sister Muriel (Estelle Healy), a rather open-minded devotee of the church whose vibrating crucifix does raise cause for concern, and then her morally-dubious friend Stephanie (Jamila Hall) for advice, Ashley becomes increasingly anxious about her indiscretion. Furthermore, she finds few words of wisdom from her mother (Donna Randall), who only muddies the waters of Ashley's parentage and regales her with anecdotes of historic orgies.
Adult in the loosest sense of the word, Cheat Happens is also tawdry but in an entertaining way. The vulgar humour and cheap laughs are enough to keep the audience smirking for the ten minute run time, but I doubt much more than that.
The short film was visually vibrant and contained some nicely framed scenes. The sequence in the Sister's office was particularly well shot and provided an engaging entryway into the movie. The use of flashback was also impressive, at one point one or two of the orgy members hold up cardboard ice cream cones which was a remarkable way of reflecting the shallow tone of the themes being explored whilst providing a striking visual spectacle.
Knox was an efficient lead, lending a decent degree of depth and gravitas to an otherwise sugary story. Her exploration into her own character's morality, and how this evolved over the course of the short film, felt genuine and convincing. The other performers were comparatively less convincing, but did provide copious amounts of innuendo and pseudo wisdom.
By examining a topic such as faithfulness, writer and director Guillermo Peña Sánchez opts for a direct yet trivial approach. His theme gets explored with a comic aloofness that, whilst at times very funny, does have a habit of undermining any intelligent or compelling social commentary to be made. The result is a kitsch comedy with plenty of salacious dialogue and cheeky characters, that, much like the idea explored in the film, will quickly evaporate any sense of involvement or culpability as long as you don't think on it too much.