Directed by: #PeierTracyShen
Written by: #PeierTracyShen
Short Film Review by #ChrisBuick
Out of Place is brought to us by Chinese writer/director Peier “Tracy” Shen, a graduate of the world-renowned AFI Conservatory film school who already has a couple of impressive projects under her belt, making it clear why this school has the sterling reputation it has. But while the AFI of course helps bolster the talents of filmmakers such as Shen and gives them the opportunity to really hone their craft and tell their stories, it’s clear that Shen already had filmmaking in her bones.
In this dual narrative film, we step briefly into the lives of two immigrants; Hui (Furman) a young aspiring Chinese pianist eyeing a prestigious position and Chamo (Boneva), a Mexican house painter looking to establish a solid base for his family to follow him across the border. Both have uprooted their entire lives, left whole families behind and made huge decisions in order to seek out a better future, but in return now feel completely cut off from everything they know. So despite their contrasting, backgrounds, passions and ideals, their lives are almost as intrinsically connected as much as they are disconnected, and not just because they are unwitting next-door neighbours.
A director who believes that the heart of directing cannot be taught, it shows here that Shen has put all of hers into this clearly personal story, keeping truly within the spirit of writing what you know by drawing from her own difficult experiences. What that means for the viewer is that the vision which is so clear in her mind is translated almost perfectly to a moving image, allowing us to properly empathise, sympathise and understand the story Shen is trying to tell. Because while yes, it may be a story specific to our filmmaker, Shen writes it in such a way that manages to tap into a universal truth that binds all of us. We can, even in a world of over seven billion people, all feel alone sometimes although deep down our wants and drives and desires are essentially the same, and Out of Place works likes an infinite double helix showing us how the lives of Hui and Chamo regularly align and diverge.
What really helps accentuate those feelings of solitude Shen is trying to express is the intimately close framing throughout almost the entirety of the film. With rarely more than an inch of space surrounding our characters at any time, we are allowed a small window from which we can traverse their pain and frustrations with them. Both Furman and Boneva carry that baton even further forward with two applaudable performances which manage to give us very distinctive characterisations of a similar narrative, helping tie the overall theme of the piece nicely together.
Loneliness can be insidious, and feeling like an outsider is arguably one of the biggest fears we all have. With Out of Place, Shen has shone a light on that universal feeling and created something personal and beautiful that allows us to remember that it is something we all face and might hopefully help others find solace when they need it.
Watch the trailer here: