Directed by: #JonellRowe
Written by: #JonellRowe
As our age advances technologically, we find society becoming savvy or even driven by this new equipment. Some use this high-tech advancement to acquire knowledge, some use it to stay connected in a busy world and many increasingly use it for convenience, be it in finding your entertainment or your essential resources. In the last decade or so, no doubt we have all noticed the progression of card machines, scanners or self-service checkouts in not only supermarket chains but also our local shops! And it is in this zone that Jonell Rowe’s new short film resides and thrives.
Number 13 is a darkly comic sci-fi that tells the story of an aspiring actor/performer who nips into a shop and is confronted by a bizarrely conscious self-service till. From there on Rowe’s plot delightfully stabs at societal attitudes to technology, technophobia, themes of mankind against machine and the effect of growing consumer convenience on the working man. For a short of such concise stature, Rowe has mapped things out nicely and wisely kept the cast count at a reasonable number, allowing the characters some very commendable levels of development and depth.
The film itself strongly evokes a kind of #SpikeJonze’s Her vibe, an influence already expressed by the director on Number 13’s official website, but there is also an air of 2001: A Space Odyssey’s HAL 9000 and even – come the very vintage science fiction finale - a whiff of Terminator, only with this Skynet starting in retail! Rowe has a very relevant and timely story here that is impressively presented, in a fashion becoming of one of the popular dystopic TV shows of late (Black Mirror comes to mind). DOP #JackAyers makes good use of the familiar shop setting (the film was shot at a East Putney Co-op) and Rowe directs with a flair for a slowly unfolding tech thriller, that makes great use of its characters.
The character of Number 13 (the self-service checkout at the core of the story) is manipulative yet believably endearing and Yana Penrose’s voicework sells you on the concept and on the soul of this machine. Meanwhile human lead Adrian, is given hopeful life by Karl Queensborough, and his work makes the character likable and helps give the open finale more of a punch. While there is an effective supporting turn by TJ Schooling, who as a kiosk salesperson, inserts a level of disdain towards the machine and stokes the films themes.
I really enjoyed Number 13; it leaves you thinking about its outlook on the future of technology for consumer convenience. Well made and with a lot to say in a very short time, Number 13 is both fun and meaningful.
After this you may head over to the human till!