Directed by Christian Hutchins and Jacob Thompson
Written by Jacob Thompson
Starring Joseph Shaver, Hannah Tippit
Short Film Review by Euan Franklin
The student film is a unique form that encourages fear, trembling, and fun. The arrogance mixed with the youthful lack of experience gives us something deformed, unfinished – to the point where these become conventions. Accordingly, this new short film from co-directors Christian Hutchins and Jacob Thompson is about as conventional as they come.
Not for Me follows John (Joseph Shaver), a twentysomething delivery-boy with dark and uncomfortable dreams, as he ponders his recent break-up with girlfriend Amy (Hannah Tippit). Moving through his confusing reality, we begin to understand it.
The film starts off delving into that film-school surrealism filled with nightmares, people in white masks, and depthless internal imagery (specifically, a rose: symbolising a lost, clichéd love). John moves from dream to dream, constantly questioning what’s real and what’s not without much conflict – the white masks float around, suggesting a wet threat, but never seem to harm him in any way. It’s like watching A Nightmare on Elm Street without Freddy Krueger.
But it’s not long before this narrative is abandoned for an explanatory montage detailing the history of John’s relationship with Amy. At first, it feels like a innovative imitation of the long step into the past Emmanuelle Riva takes in Hiroshima mon amour – but, when considering the numerous imperfections within the rest of the film, it’s clear this is a pool the filmmakers have accidentally tripped in to. It’s an intriguing path to take, particularly since surreal movies don’t often like to visit characters – they’re more interested in moods – but there’s not enough development or realisation here to be engaged. Shaver and Tippit do the best they can with the material they’ve been given, and their performances are the most convincing aspects of the film – especially Tippit, whose potential is regrettably reduced.
There are technical imperfections a-plenty, though not as horrific as usual. The interior cinematography is mostly adequate with fairly functional lighting, even if the compositions don’t feel motivated by much, but the exteriors are executed by cinematographers who don’t know how to work in natural light. The sound is also repeatedly bad: Hutchins and Thompson clearly have no confidence in their audio abilities or resources (having taken over the camera and editing departments), restricting the dialogue to nauseating clichés and using music to cover up their lack of initiative.
However, this film does feel different from other student shorts. It’s clear that Thompson, in his screenplay, had clear characters in mind and wanted to explore them – perhaps in a more psychological style. But he struggles in deciding which direction to take. The connection between the nightmares and the break-up tie with the image of the rose, but there’s nothing else gluing the two acts together. White-masked night-terrors don’t tell us anything about the characters, only that the writer wanted someone to watch and say: “ohhh, alienation, the unknown… how deep, how profound!”
Not for Me is another student mistake-project, which Hutchins and Thompson should study to improve their future movies. Although the obvious excitement to experiment is fun to watch, both directors will watch this in five years and cringe with embarrassment. Let’s hope they arrive at these realisations as early as possible and grow up out of the student-film limbo, where many are still permanently stuck.