Director and Editor: David J Paradise Writers: Angela and David J Paradise Cinematography: Andrea Chiozzoto Music: Paul McKinley Starring: Kiki Kendrick, Francisco Bassignana Short Film Review by Andrew Moore
Beautifully set within the verdant, summer-filtered light of the Sydney Gardens in Bath, David J Paradise’s Film Short Plastic Fingers makes wonderful use of all its vibrant natural settings (with credit to Andrea Chiozzoto’s cinematography). Also the integration of natural sounds (birds chattering, crows cawing, bees buzzing etc) and a wistfully elegiac soundtrack provided by Paul McKinley help set the scene. The Film Short’s vulnerable, melancholic central character Sebastian (Francisco Bassignana) is seeking to depopulate from his mind the constant castigations of his abusive and self-absorbed (yet deceased) mother (Kiki Kendrick) through his dream of performing mime for people. The film’s only other real character other than Sebastian is this deceased mother who we see either haranguing him as a physical on screen reality or through vitriolic voiceover thus revealing Sebastian’s vulnerable mental state in relation to her but also how it seeps into his subjective reality.
Regarding the title ‘Plastic Fingers’ I was unsure if it alludes to Sebastian’s inability to mine well or concentrate on miming well (due to either not being especially good or due to his mother’s constant criticisms curtailing his ability) and thus ‘plastic fingers.’ Sebastian clearly isn’t at ease mentally in relation to his mother and to this effect miming seems to be some kind of cathartic response, the visual interplay of a damaged soul attempting to heal itself. Interestingly his mother even prompts the styles of mime required shouting ‘seamanship’ and tossing him a seaman’s hat or ‘horsemanship’ only to criticise his somewhat desperate attempts as he gallops around. When she’s not criticising ‘how’ he mimes the she’s criticising ‘why’ he mimes too. Additionally there’s scene in which Sebastian sees his mother messily scoff an expected cake all to herself (obviously Sebastian replaying an older memory) and so the vain, self absorbed nature of the mother (who also constantly preens herself in her portable mirror) is revealed and thus her effects on the overtly sensitive Sebastian and the subsequent nature of an unrequited motherly love.
When all’s said and done the mother obviously just isn’t or wasn’t (past experiences permeating a subjective psychological present for poor Sebastian) remotely nice to him except when it’s finally revealed she needs him in her old age. Of course the mother is no longer physically there, and when Sebastian takes a Polaroid with her it reveals of course only him.
Personally I found the Plastic Fingers hard to connect with, not finding its fantasy ‘through the keyhole’ enough to warrant a strong identification with it. As a gloriously whimsical idea carried through by a group of filmmakers and thus documented on a beautiful summer’s day in glorious surroundings its fine but as a short film in its own right I’m not sure it stands up completely. The production values are good, the music is well chosen in relation to the context of the short film, the editing works and these elements succeed in drawing the viewer towards its central protagonists but beyond this the two key characters fail to engage. The mother’s dialogue, which really needs work as only she speaks, is pretty pedestrian and I’m sorry to say that Sebastian often fails to engender sympathy or identification because he doesn’t mime particularly well and often just looks silly – am I wrong to think that in fact maybe his dead mother’s criticisms aren’t wholly unwarranted? Maybe that’s exactly how he’s supposed to evoke sympathy but of course it’s not a documentary about someone who can’t mime and so ultimately often it all just seems a bit too simplistic and twee.
I really liked the idea, and as noted the mood of the setting was captured wonderfully but for me something got lost in some key elements of its execution, there’s a lack of poignancy or sentiment that a short involving a damaged central character who mimes (and thus doesn’t speak) should carry or the sense of magical intimacy you should share with Sebastian and for me this is where Plastic Fingers becomes unstuck!