Directed by Avery Cohen
Starring Juvenal Avellano-Santana, Seth Kaliroff, Kelly Anderson
Short Film Review by Annie Vincent
Halfway to the Suburbs follows the story of Jaime, an obnoxious and egotistical youth who is about to head off to college. In a bid to impress his long-time crush Meg, Jaime seeks to prove he can be responsible by taking his troubled younger cousin, Andrew, to a party. Unfortunately, the storyline is just one of a number of issues with this indie short film.
The film’s opening montage introduces us to Jaime, played by Juvenal Avellano-Santana. It is clear he is an over-zealous youth with a possible anger-management issue, as judged by his unreasonable reaction to a parking ticket – one he has been given because he is parking illegally in a disabled bay. And the character doesn’t become any more likeable as the plot progresses. He manipulates his vulnerable cousin into attending a party just so he can show off to a girl he likes. The script doesn’t help him out either, with his conversations in the early part of the film covering online pornography, the physical and sexual attributes of his crush, and drugs, then later becoming philosophical as he expresses the momentous changes he and his cousin have on the horizon. With his swearing gratuitous and his attempts to portray a ‘cool, urban youth’, whilst living in white, middle-class suburbia, painfully unconvincing, his performance becomes a cringe-worthy watch. And whilst other films have managed to capture the transition of silly-schoolboy to mature adolescent well, this one just hasn’t managed it. The script manages to fail other characters too. Mid-argument with Jaime, his friend Liam starts referencing the Napoleonic wars. Not only is this odd in itself, but it comes after an extended period of film where these characters are meant to have demonstrated how ‘street’ they are.
Characterisation is a problem here too, as most of the performances in this film are unconvincing. Many of the actors look like they are about to laugh mid-sentence and lack any range of facial expression to support the script, such as it is. The best performance is from Seth Kaliroff, playing Andrew, who at least tries to create a genuine sense of anger and frustration later in the film, but the preceding plot and undeveloped script mean the audience can’t take this seriously either as it is poorly timed and seems incongruous with the fact the party and all of its drama has now passed.
Away from the plot and script, there is some nice cinematography and time has been spent selecting an appropriate soundtrack to compliment the intended feel of this film. Unfortunately, the audio-balancing is poor and at times the soundtrack completely cuts over the actors.
Halfway to the Suburbs is Avery Cohen’s third film and whilst the circumstances behind pre-production are unknown, it feels a little rushed. Audiences will struggle to empathise with these two-dimensional characters and engage with the inconsistent storyline.