Directed by: Ryan Still Starring: Ray Still, Marie Sullivan Short Film Review by: Chris Olson
Home movies are a personal thing. The collections of clips that we accumulate during a lifetime involve the people that we know, the relationships that we have, and the emotions that we feel for them and are indeed our own. However, when a filmmaker like Ryan Still serves up his specific home movie narrative Memory, there is a lot for the audience to connect and empathise with.
Telling the story of why his mother and father are no longer together, the ingredients for short film Memory are few and compelling. The audio is exclusively provided by Ryan's mother Marie Sullivan, who regales for Ryan with the demise of his parentage whilst, at least in part, attempting to console him. The visuals comprise of holiday footage and clips from special occasions, which create a tapestry of memory for the real power of Still’s movie to be realised; which is context.
At one point Marie mentions how memories are given meaning by the context in which they are being remembered from, an important and poignant point. This creates a harrowing atmosphere for the home movies to play out in, as they seem to become tainted with the broken emotions of the situation and Marie’s voice seems to sever their original meaning as she relays her inability to prevent the break-up. Her heartfelt recollections of Ryan’s father feel like a eulogy, robbing the life from the person we see in the memories.
The music which accompanies film is well timed and enhances the latter section of the short. Aside from this there is no real flair to the piece, which I think is deliberate. To have any frills or thrills would be to undermine the motivation of Memory, which is not trying to be a cinematically impressive film but an emotionally charged concept utterly layered with personal grief. The characters are real and do not seemed skewed by the documentary style which could have been a much harder balance to strike had Still opted for a different tone or structure.
Some audiences may struggle to connect with the material, perhaps demanding the other side to the story (maybe a sequel where Ryan's dad narrates is needed), or just simply not able to connect with the very personal tragedy being conveyed. But for those viewers who can immerse themselves into these human reflections and connect the visuals with the pathos, then there is a very rewarding experience to be found. It all depends on the context with which you approach the story I guess.