Josiah Short Film Review

★★★★

Directed by Kyle Laursen

Written by Laursen

Starring Luke Forbes, Kevin Dunn, Mather Zickel, Melanie Chandra

Film Review by Tom Boardman

Josiah’s premise is simple: a man auditions for a role in a tv show, although the creators of the show make him quite uncomfortable. What makes this short so much more tense and interesting than this simple concept is the fact that it is shot in one single take. While invisible cuts may be hidden beneath the surface, this short is one single take, which is it’s master stroke. Any short could film this simple conversation and convey the rising tension well enough, but what Josiah does so well is making the spectator feel trapped within it.

The short starts with the characters meeting each other, and as this happens, the mood and atmosphere in the room is light-hearted and free of any tension. The camera spends most of the short circling the characters, bouncing between them as they talk, balancing reactions and dialogue. However, as the first reading of the script occurs, the tone of the short changes and becomes much more strained. What the single take adds to this is the pace of the circling makes the room feels like it’s getting smaller throughout, not showing a character’s reactions can create a false sense of security, before revealing reactions of characters that completely change the context the short.

While the short opens with music, once again lulling the spectator into a light-hearted sense of security that eludes to the fact that Josiah will be an playful short, the lack of music throughout focuses in on the dialogue and the issues that are raised through the conversation, as it twists from one thing to another. While the dialogue is very exposition-based, taking a very blunt stance that tells the spectator everything more explicitly and rather dryly at the start, it later becomes much more nuanced, as it speaks volumes about character without directly explaining the situation to the spectator.

There are two cuts in the short, which takes the spectator within the camera that films the audition on its second reading, and this segment is almost like the climax of the short, where there is no camera movement, and instead it focuses directly on Brandon, the man auditioning, demonstrating how effected he has been by the dialogue that has occurred throughout the course of the short, and focusing in on the fact that he every word of the script is damaging following the discussion that has taken place.

The build-up of events could be foreshadowing and setting up some kind of confrontation, yet the short decides to let the tension that has been built up remain at the surface, as there is no satisfaction or comeuppance at the end of the narrative, creating beautiful character alignment with Brandon which leaves the spectator questioning the issues raised and wondering what the outcome of some kind of emotional reaction from him would’ve been.

While all the characters start out as likeable on the surface, each character carries their own outlook on the issues raised, and are expertly crafted by both the script and the actors portraying the characters to create layered individuals who inhabit the story in a way that never gives anyone the spotlight for too long, but gives everyone a stance on the matter at hand through simple things such as the camera lingering on them, or subtle looks, and the use of shallow and deep focus especially, which focuses the camera and spectator’s attention on certain characters at pivotal moments, to craft an incredibly well paced and structured short that twists perfectly, while also raising questions that many shorts would struggle to do with such fantastic nuance.