Directed by Jesse Binger & Kaitlyn Johnston Starring Kaitlyn Johnston, Giordan Diaz, Susan Hedges, Tom Archi, & Bella Moscato Short Film Review by Chris Olson
Grief is a bittersweet subject matter for stories, filmmakers who present them to audiences are often mindful of the pitfalls that are prevalent. Too much sadness and the audience may find it difficult to connect as emotionally as you need them to, keep it too light and it does not do justice to the subject matter. Jesse Binger and Kaitlyn Johnston's short film, Graveyard Girl, is a tonally balanced piece that approaches the subject matter in a graceful and intriguing way.
Dahlia (Kaitlyn Johnston) is a teenager spending most of her time, as you may have guessed, in the local graveyard. Far from any gothic high school phase or death metal inclination, Dahlia frequents the graveyard due to a personal loss and seems to be struggling to move on. Sitting in front of a tombstone, our protagonist does sketches and idles the daylight hours away - much to the chagrin of her mother (Susan Hedges).One day Dahlia’s graveyard reverie is broken when she is interrupted by a mourner from a funeral taking place. Dennis (Giordan Diaz) at first seems like an overly bubbly and vibrant character, intrigued by Dahlia’s drawings and inclination to spend her free time in a graveyard. However, his own grieving process soon consumes him, allowing a self-reflective moment for Dahlia to occur that could be the closure she has been searching for.
It would have been very easy to have a depressing aesthetic to match a story as potentially morbid as this. Graveyard Girl, though, is a film full of light and colour. Even the graveyard itself seems like a peaceful and pleasurable place to be. By keeping this tone of life, filmmakers Binger and Johnston allow their story to effervesce without any gloominess distracting the audience, becoming something more life affirming than tragic. Music is used to complement this tone, with a subtle score and acoustic feel - especially during the opening which was a fantastic way to set the mood.
The performances, largely, are really great. Johnston in particular holds the film’s centre without any trouble. We empathise with her straight away and are drawn into her character’s anguish whilst intrigued by her predilection for her leisure time location. Hedges is a little on the nose at times, but is believable in her reaction to Dahlia’s behaviour. Diaz’s character was a little jarring to begin with, being introduced in a way that seemed to distract from the atmosphere the film had cultivated. He comes on very strong and his lines are delivered a bit woodenly. However, by the latter half of the short film, Diaz has more emotional depth to engage with in the script and delivers one of the most moving sequences.
As a film to engage with, Graveyard Girl is sensitive and loaded with gravitas. It benefits from a visual beauty that is completely engaging and enjoyable, whilst tackling a story heavy with pathos and difficult themes.
More Film Reviews for your reading pleasure.