Directed by: John Carlin Written by: Aaron Gray and Paul Skillen Starring: Katie Goldfinch, Antony Achaempong, Nigel O'Neill Short Film Review by: Chris Olson
Full of dark intrigue and compelling science fiction, short film Echoes, written by Aaron Gray and Paul Skillen is also a tale of humanity in the face of uncertain peril.
Told aboard a futuristic transport carriage, we are quickly introduced to the three characters. Remy (Nigel O’Neill) is a somewhat morose sort, hoping to get through the lengthy journey with as little fuss as possible. With him is Sa’im (Antony Achaempong), a younger and far more curious type who spends the majority of his trip trying to unlock the many mysteries that surround him. And in the corner, locked behind a glass door, sits Goudine (Katie Goldfinch), whose presence aboard the train is the most fascinating. As the trio engage in what can only be described as taught banter, a few secrets reveal themselves including a mysterious ball that could hold all of their doom.
From an aesthetic point of view, Echoes shares a lot of stylistic points with it's sci-fi brethren. There are the arm patches with industrial-looking logos, dark lighting, dry ice effects, and claustrophobic quarters. Far from being a negative, though, it is this super atmosphere which allows for the film’s greatest strength to emerge: the performances.
I've seen Katie Goldfinch in short films previously (she was particularly great in Animus) and here she is no less terrific. Instantly commanding the frames she is in with a turn that completely pulls off the balance between victim and possible threat. Antony Achaempong is also superb as the story’s moral compass. I saw him in short film Squares not long ago and was really impressed. Here, he is given a lot of great material to work with and genuinely shines. O’Neill turns in a wonderful performance as the surly grouch and is also able to show off his chops in the final section of the film with skill and aplomb (not to give any spoilers away).
If I have a gripe with Echoes, and it's only a small one, it would be the fact that the short film, like many others of the science fiction short genre, felt like a precursor to something bigger. Perhaps this is intended as a dry run for a feature length (if so, sign me up), but as a short film the plot lacks structure and too much intrigue is built with not enough payoff.
That being said this is a high end production with fantastic visuals, atmosphere and characters. Given the immense talent of the performers and director John Carlin’s knack for sliding bums to the edges of seats, there can be no outcome other than to fully recommend this to audiences. One of the best sci-fi shorts of the year.