Directed by Marina Bruno
Starring David Lee, Chris Cottrell, Marina Bruno
Short Film Review by James Burgess
A delightful, quirky and clever comedy short, made with great affection and clockwork precision, Reverse Psychology is a deceptively ambitious work from Marina Bruno, who stars as well as directs. An ideal antidote to 2016’s political cataclysm, it tackles the serious theme of psychiatry, but in a very funny, acerbic yet never parodied way.
What could have been just another satirical swipe at the Scorsese chiller Shutter Island or the left-field surprise Stonehearst Asylum - is instead charming, zippy and consequently refreshing. That’s immediately evident from the painterly titles and retro-soundtrack. Both are upbeat, and aptly feel as if they’re from a bygone era, making their incongruity with the dark subject matter, just another plus.
The performances are universally winning, from David Lee (an absolute double for David Hyde-Pierce) revelling in dry, monotone, deadpan delivery as the therapist. Chris Cottrell effortlessly goes from every-man normalcy, to exasperation as the patient, and Bruno proves multi-talented; skillfully directing a light, fast-paced farce, while also playing a kooky, optimistic assistant - both are accomplished with a natural ease.
Each character in Reverse Psychology is visually identifiable through bright, simple props and costumes, (stripy-coloured socks, bow-ties etc) - but they never feel stereotypical or gimmicky, instead the characterisation is just exaggerated enough to suit the broader moments. This is because of the alchemy of script, director, gentle parody and the way the form doesn't mean the subordination of the quality of all of these - in fact the constraints enrich all of these elements and more.
The more slapstick, almost cartoon aspects work in the context of its sub-genre of madcap comedy, but may become a little excessive for some, as it gets slightly more frenetic towards the end. The plotting is ambitious, deceptive in its apparent simplicity. Without giving too much away, the fact that the audience may or may not see the twist coming, shouldn’t detract from the enjoyment or entertainment value either way, of a film which is a surprising and fun piece which should appeal to a broad age-range.
Comedies (shorts or not), require the skill and lightness of touch to make them as airy as a soufflé. That skill is extremely rare, and it’s one shown in frothy abundance in Reverse Psychology from all involved. So many comedies fail, because they aren’t diamond-sharp enough to sparkle. While this isn’t perfect, its conceit is daring, it's likely to produce a smile, and it may become even funnier with multiple viewings.