★ Directed by: Brian Ly Written by: Brian Ly, Declan Mulligan Starring: Declan Mulligan, Brian Ly, Alexander Pissos Short Film Review by: Philip Giordano
Morally Relativistic Movie Review
Brian Ly directs Morally Relativistic, a class assignment that dazzles with its strangeness, but ultimately falls into cliché and predictability. The short film opens in a poorly lit classroom setting where a teenage boy, presumably the teacher, instructs the class that the ‘test is beginning, put away your phones.’ A wide shot reveals that the entire class is comprised of only one student. This surrealist approach, which could have been out of necessity, being that it is a class assignment, is very unique and captivating. It hooks the audience in an idiosyncratic way. The next scene, laden with bad sound recording, line readings, and quadrant framing, is very effective in creating an atmosphere of social awkwardness and frustration. It is reminiscent of the compositions in Mr. Robot and is definitely the director’s strength, intentional or not. In this scene the student from the classroom tells his friend that he is certain to fail his class unless he can do something radical- ‘there’s no way to go from a D to a B.’ His plan: change his grades on the teacher's laptop, but he needs his friend to run a distraction. WORST LOOKOUT EVER This is when the film starts to veer from surrealistic to literal and sadly even cliché. The friend inaudibly talks to the teacher and they leave the classroom together. Walking and talking, albeit inaudibly. After the teacher abandons their laptop, the student goes into the classroom and accesses the computer. The computer is conveniently not password-protected, and also the teacher suddenly remembers their urgent need for their laptop, as if out of nowhere. This is not based on realism but driven by the plot to provide tension, and it is obvious. When the teacher heads back to the classroom the friend tries to contact the student, but it is unclear what happens. It looks like he is texting him and his phone dies, which we know is highly unlikely, but it also makes us wonder why he didn’t he just call instead of writing a lengthy message. Then the student goes over to the computer lab and writes an email to the teacher! The headline is: Test Grades and the subject is ‘Run Now.’ Talk about incriminating evidence! The teacher returns to catch the student on their laptop. Which is underplayed because this is most likely an offence serious enough to warrant expulsion. However, the teacher disappointedly reveals that the student, in fact, did well on the test. So well, that they received a 96. The student sits with the fact that they didn’t need to cheat, that they had, in fact, aced the test, but it leaves out the most important part - the punishment. All that is present is the emotional toll, no physical punishment for their transgression. This young #filmmaker throws away logic in order to fulfil plot needs and would benefit greatly from honest human behaviour and leaning on their strength of surrealistic casting and quadrant framing in their visual style. This filmmaker has a promising future ahead of them and audiences have an idiosyncratic mind to look forward to.