Loner Short film review

★★★

Directed by: #JAntonio

Written by: #JAntonio, #FrankRainone

Starring: #JAntonio, #DanyelleDemchock

Film review by William Hemingway



A man in a hat and face-mask looks out over an out of focus empty New York street.
Loner film poster

It seems that lockdown is driving a lot of us stir-crazy: Mental health problems are through the roof, levels of loneliness, anxiety and depression have skyrocketed, a large body of the population is reporting a feeling of disconnectedness and now a significant proportion of schoolchildren are turning to self-harm. In terms of the cure being just as bad as the disease lockdown certainly seems to be topping that list.

Rick (Antonio), too, has certainly felt the world closing in around him. Being a New Yorker he's used to the hustle and bustle of the streets, the throng of the crowds and the endless daily interactions with thousands and thousands of people. He's more worried about his relationships with those close to him, though. Stilted phone conversations with his parents and his girlfriend (Demchock) just aren't enough and he's getting no relief from the isolation at work either, so Rick has decided to take matters into his own hands. He's bought his girlfriend a new face-mask as a gift and he's going to make sure that he can hand it to her in person.

The crazy is getting to her too though, and she won't even step out of her stairwell to greet him when he comes to see her. She hides behind her mask and the safety-glass door and the looming spectre of Covid to keep Rick at a distance whilst still happily accepting his attention and his gift. What's a man to do when all he wants is to connect and yet is knocked back at every turn? Maybe a chance encounter will offer him the release he needs to let his emotions finally run wild.

And so, writer, director and star J. Antonio gives us the latest in a long line of lockdown stories, as though this is the only vein rich enough to be mined for creative output in the last year or so. He also follows in the footsteps of several other writers/directors who have chosen the 'Loner' as their eponymous lead in recent films, most of which follow a similar structure and have the same redemption/loss struggle at their heart. Certainly Rick/J. Antonio is not unique in his story, he just feels that way because he's been on his own for so long, and most viewers will know before the film even opens that 'Loner' (ie. lone 30's male) is a thinly veiled pseudonym for 'psychopath'.

While there is nothing new in Antonio's film in terms of narrative or characterisation, there are some really nice visuals on offer to keep the viewer relatively amused for ten minutes. Images of empty streets in New York, even while the lights are still blazing forth messages and advertising, are very striking and hold a certain pathos. In the middle of the story Rick watches a music video on TV which is shot with genuine craftsmanship in terms of lighting, composition and evocation of theme; in fact it is so well made that it looks really out of place amongst the rest of the film and could genuinely be a real music video in its own right.

Sadly the bulk of the film doesn't match up to that high and is let down by poor acting, a simplicity of direction and a lack of any real story. While there are shades of brilliance it's not enough to carry the feel of the film and Antonio should really look at where his talents and interest lie in order to pursue that path in future. All in all it's a decent attempt at an old, worn story, set in a time we can all identify with but with only short pieces that stand out to the viewer. Maybe, after Antonio 'reconnects' with his own relationships, the next film will be better.