Director: Denise Papas Meechan
Writer: Denise Papas Meechan
Stars: Jenn Halweil, Jane Dashow, Antonio E. Silva, Andrew Price
Short Film Review: Andrew Moore
Freckles is a fifteen minute US short film written and directed by Denise Papas Meechan about a 30 year old virgin suffering from chronic isolation, extreme self loathing issues . . . and of course freckles! The film initially hovers between these issues of alienation and distanciation on the main protagonist’s part through to a far darker revolt into introspection later on. The film’s production values are sound enough and Lizzie (excellently portrayed by Jenn Halweil) is believable as our central focus point for sympathy, derision and/or aversion throughout the film. Her emotive voiceover further authenticates this painful sense of solitude. Lizzie’s freckles almost serve as an external visual plot device reminding us that what’s really afoot is that things are actually deeply wrong inside (not outside). To quote Lizzie “My mom says my freckles are kisses from God . . . but they’re just a place where my demons hide.”
When we see Lizzie showering at the start of the film it’s not to be considered a sensual scene, she’s trying to scrub away at those cursed freckles. That Lizzie looks completely normal but sees herself as far from it is signified in a short walk down the sidewalk in which a stream of pedestrians examine her a little too closely. We can of course see this from a couple of points of view. Firstly, that we are being shown these people from Lizzie’s very unhinged subjective viewpoint, that there really is something wrong with her (and so why wouldn’t they stare). Secondly, that she has internalised this paranoid point of view of herself to such an extent that her overly suspicious glances towards others and bizarre body language are what’s actually causing them to stare. Whichever way you choose to see it she’s clearly unnatural in public, goes out with her hoodie pulled up as tight as possible (which strangely enough exaggerates her facial freckles) and even lingers strangely behind a tree when Brody (Antonio E. Silva) beckons her over.
To a further extent we can ask if Lizzie’s garrulous, over the top work colleague, who’s in complete contrast to the subdued, socially awkward Lizzie, is really thus so. Is this again how Lizzie subjectively sees her (hence the animation), or is Margo (Jane Dashow) really this way and so further serving as a visual contrast to Lizzie’s internalised alienation? I’d guess probably both. Margo isn’t young or slim yet this stops her not an iota in her night time liaisons! One obvious thing is that Lizzie’s pathology of isolation isn’t just about an inability to ‘hook up’ with someone. When Margo suggests using Match.com (which has proved successful for her as she volubly describes an evening’s passion) it doesn’t register with Lizzie at all, it somehow merely isn’t the point for her because these uneasy waters run far deeper. Maybe this is alluded to further in a later discussion when Margo is beaming proudly about her nephew’s potty training success and how if these windows of growth aren’t taken when you’re younger it leads to stagnation later in life. Then she asks Lizzie what she’s doing tonight. Of course the answer is nothing, except being at home alone . . . stagnating! Which windows of growth did Lizzie miss?
Lizzie’s hoodie is finally removed in public in the final scene of Freckles, she has revealed herself! It’s a suitably dark finale which helps to pull the film’s reception away from notions of pubescent tweeness (as does an uncomfortably tearful dildo scene). Driven to a final distraction she despatches the (uninterested) love interest and we see Lizzie’s freckles replaced by the resulting splats of blood (further enhanced by the prerequisite melon attacking sound effects) as the credits roll to suitably Argentoesque music.
The format of a fifteen minute short film serves as a good vehicle for this type of brief, dark, psychological tale of transgression from introverted, chronic loneliness to the outwardly psychotic. Whether sympathy is engendered towards the central character or not (as a victim of wider issues) isn’t gone deeply into other than the mother’s brief dialogue from the past (Lizzie’s past). This perhaps could’ve been alluded further to. I wonder how Lizzie’s character could’ve revealed herself to us if the point of violent transgression would’ve come earlier in the film, and thus served as a point of fulcrum for narrative and character development. That said I think Freckles serves as a great short film into a life psychotically unravelling on the other side of a very lonely, dark mirror until it finally crosses over to our side. What was truly hidden becomes unhidden, beware of the freckled masses (imagined or otherwise) for their bodies and minds carry ‘the star map to isolation and loneliness.’
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