Directed by: #NeoBryce
Written by: Neo Bryce
"Everything. Everyone. Everywhere. Ends.”
The above quote was the tagline to the final season of the HBO show Six Feet Under, a series that explored themes of death, life and family and the endless struggle to make sense of the finite time and meaning with have together on this earth. When I think of death I always think of that tagline, how all that exists is bound by that one rule; it will end. I will die, my friends will die, this planet will perish and millions of years from now the stars will explode and nothing will be left, everything ends. However while everything will end, not everything ends at once as writer-director Neo Bryce explores the aftermath and routine of those left behind by death and the existential questions that arise in trying to make sense of the loss of a loved one.
Bryce’s narrative structure consists of two strangers meeting outside a funeral home by chance, attending wakes for their family members at the same facility and slowly they share personal details of their experiences, thoughts and frustrations. Unfortunately, Bryce can’t make Condolence engaging or compelling with its characterisation or dialogue, it’s caught between overly sentimental and rehearsed. The characters feeling like mouthpieces for Bryce’s viewpoints of grief and death rather than their own beings whose connection drives the film forward. Though nothing really pushes the film forward, as it remains with the two characters on the bench the whole runtime and their “breakthrough” feels insincere and unearned due to the lack of emotional connection to their issues. I regrettably know first hand what these characters are experiencing and if Bryce is pulling from real-life experience for his script that emotion just doesn’t come across.
The performances from Gabriel Doromal and Loisa have interesting chemistry, mostly low key exchanges that never gets overly melodramatic and they do sell that initial connection that forms between the characters. We are all bound by death in some form but Condolence just doesn’t have enough in it to justify its runtime, as the connection between the two doesn’t evolve beyond the initial meeting. They have similarities with frustrations with families and personal guilt over their deceased but Bryce doesn’t direct these performers well enough to make them stand out against the underwhelming visuals. Condolence mostly focuses on the two characters sitting on a bench, one is smoking, one is drinking, there is minor action within their monologues but as the film goes on, the interest behind to wane. Initially, Bryce’s use of music and framing captured the character’s isolation and disconnection to the formality of grief makes the film quite interesting but its all to brief as the static wide and close-ups of the bench become a haze to the audience. Background audio drowns out some dialogue and certain close-ups are either suffering from pixel degradation or have been altered with a filter to mimic film stock, there are clear points in the filmmaking that break the immersion.
Well-intentioned but poorly executed, Neo Bryce’s exploration of grief and connection doesn’t reach the heights or insight he intended. These are broad ideas and philosophies he wants to explore and the film takes a casual approach in how these characters emotionally connect to the material leaving Condolence a disappointment to audiences who should connect to the film the most.