Directed By: #MarcZammit
Written By: #LindsayBennettThompson
Short Film Review by: #ChrisBuick
Laura (Bennett-Thompson) sits across from a keen podcast host (Beudert), looking to talk about her new book, a supposed tell-all story about her time as a member of a notorious cult known as The Disciples of Eden. Here she was not Laura, but instead referred to simply as Number 7, during which time she even birthed and raised a son, but was subjected to all kinds of horrific torture, sexual abuse and assault.
It seems at first that perhaps all that is behind her. But when Laura hears that her former cult leader has died, it becomes evident that psychological scars that deep never truly heal and we soon see that Laura’s past may in fact never leave her.
Puppy, in this form, is a proof of concept piece, perhaps even an elongated trailer for a bigger film where this story and these characters can (and should) be explored even further. As we continue to watch it becomes more and more obvious that there is a lot of potential here. Writer/actor Bennett-Thompson along award-winning filmmaker Marc Zammit, have managed to pique our interests just enough in little over a quarter of an hour that most watching this would want to see where this could go; this does seem like a collaboration with a bright future.
The premise is solid (inspired by true events), the relationship between Laura and her son Reuben (Bateman-Harden) convincing and although it noticeably drags its feet in the middle, the tension does eventually reach the right levels at the right time, actually going hell for leather in the closing minutes. It is also a compelling performance from Bennett-Thompson herself, who has to wear so many faces throughout but always with an expression which manages to say just the right amount of what we need to know about Laura without given away anything we shouldn’t.
That said, as a stand-alone short, Puppy is somewhat lacking in certain aspects. The use of the podcast interview as a plot mechanic is interesting and serves well in providing some intriguing morsels of backstory for us to jump on but it’s a very short sequence, one that perhaps was or might be part of a bigger piece, and sadly is never revisited and might have been an interesting way of letting the story unravel.
Conversely the flashbacks scenes we see of cult leader Joseph Roth (Cornwall) preaching nonsense to his followers grabs a bigger share of the runtime, but doesn’t provide us with anything worth digesting, instead seeming more like a highlight reel of cult leader clichés. All the drama of his misdeeds is instead relayed to us via a somewhat uninspiring off-screen news report, leaving us with little real insight into the cult and also nothing to really feast our eyes on for a good while until the end.
It is a decent writing debut for Bennett-Thompson, accompanied by some accomplished directing by Zammit that helps the film find its tone. It’s evident this is the starter for something bigger, better and bolder and for that it can be given the benefit of the doubt. One hopes that should the film indeed be expanded into a feature, certain aspects might be tightened and given room to breathe after which, these clearly talented filmmakers might be onto a winner.