Directed by L. Marcus Williams Starring Lee Michael Friedman and Michelle Fetterly Short Film Review by Evie Brudenall
Unrequited love is painful and heart wrenching – but when the person on the receiving end of it is completely oblivious of the other’s existence, things can start getting dangerous…
Short film Nail-Biter tells the story of a sexually repressed man and his menacing obsession for a woman who is unaware that he is following her. Too ashamed to approach her, he breaks into her apartment to feel closer to her. However, she returns home earlier than expected and he must confront the darkness within his psyche.
Nail-Biter begins with the man anxiously lingering on an underground train platform, looking very much like a citizen on the fringe of society – he’s positioned on the outside, looking in, as he watched a flirting couple completely at ease with each other. There’s a sense of longing in his gaze and the heavy implication that such behaviour he is witnessing is something he’s never experienced. A woman then arrives on the platform and the man’s focus shifts but his anxiety still manifests. The camera work and use of frequent close-ups suggests that this woman has been the subject of the man’s attention for some time now – but she is worryingly ignorant to her admirer who lurks several feet away from her. The woman boards the train and the man discreetly trails after her.
It’s the next morning and the woman leaves for work to which the man seizes his opportunity and enters her apartment building and breaks into her flat. During this sequence where the man rifles through her belongings and makes himself at home, the unsaturated aesthetic and colour scheme truly fulfils its purpose and curates a cold atmosphere that is spiced with threat and genuine eeriness. However, it’s one of the film’s only components that establishes the frightening situation as the unnamed man (played by Lee Michael Friedman) is given no depth, and his defining character trait that makes him a disturbing sociopath is his crippling shyness. Nail-Biter is also a wordless short which limits audience engagement significantly and keeps us at an uncomfortable distance – it’s been made impossible to muster up any sympathy whatsoever for our protagonist who is an extremely dangerous individual.
Overall, Williams’ short suffers without a clear message and fails to create the conflict of what the synopsis promises.