Directed by Nic Barker
Starring Fiona Norman, Hannah Vanderheide, Bryce Padovan, Taylor Hemsworth, Jackson Tozer, Skye Young & Robin Brown,
Short film review by Alfie Shaw
As the Woody Allen quote in the opening implies, Dead Sharks is about moving forward in a relationship. It’s loosely connected narrative consists of four stories covering different moments in, as well as different types of, relationships. The two stand out segments are the opening chapter ‘paige’ and the third ‘amy and greg’. The characterisation in both of these is absolutely brilliant. ‘Paige’ subverts the usual arc of a traditional talking to voicemail narrative with a single, simple line whilst ‘amy and greg’ nails two selfish people unable to get past the fact that they are both in the wrong. Their dialogue makes them a couple of unreliable narrators, forcing the decision of who is right back on the viewer. The final chapter is an engaging finale that ties into the overall narrative, but doesn’t quite reach the same nuanced level of dialogue in the first and third offerings. The second segment is the weakest of the four, but that is not to say that it is bad. It’s well shot and performed, but offers nothing new, putting it at odds with the rest of the short film.
Dead Sharks is visually a very stylised piece, with heavy use of saturation and quick cuts throughout. The quick editing style works both for and against it. Whilst it creates a consistent style for the film, it sometimes feels at odds with the themes of the narrative. The second tale ‘georgia and harry’ and the last ‘louise and ben’ are slower affairs and would have benefited from a less jumpy approach. Conversely, the rapid edits in ‘paige’ and ‘amy and greg’ suit the stories being told. In particular, in ‘paige’ where the editing style correlates with the quick changes that the character goes through. Dead Sharks' use of saturation is great. The muted colour scheme of the first three segments helps in visually reinforcing the melancholic nature of the storytelling. As the last story is more positive, it contains more colour to match which contrasts it with the other sections. Similarly, the soundscape of the film is also muted; each story contains only atmospheric elements with no music to speak of. The use of audio is particularly strong in the last segment. It contradicts the visual elements to push the narrative forward. It all adds up to smart direction that, for the most part, aids the storytelling. Dead Sharks is a film that excels at the idea of show, don’t tell.
The performances of all the cast are excellent, but singular praise should be given to Fiona Norman as Paige and Skye Young as Louise. Both are given more complicated emotional arcs than other characters and they both rise to the challenge beautifully.
Dead Sharks is a film that I can’t help but thoroughly recommend. It’s incredibly well produced, acted and tells tight, engaging stories in its fifteen-minute runtime. The film is by no means perfect; the second story doesn’t really do anything new and in parts its rapid editing style plays against. However, these small flaws shouldn’t stop you from checking it out as soon as you can.
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