Updated: May 14, 2020
Directed by: #PeterDornRavlin
Written by: Peter Dorn-Ravlin
A short and sweet film that‘ll give you a boost during lockdown.
The 2019 short film Ruben & Ethel, documents a month in the life of Ruben (Mitchell Ritter) as he undergoes a spell of community service to repent for crashing his car under the influence of drugs. Choosing purgatory over what would be “hell” (a month in prison), we watch the 30 days unfold a little like a Christmas advert, bringing together our lead and Ethel as they spend more time in each other’s company.
Touching on that sentiment, that whole heart-warming arc is a genuine pleasure to watch and the comedic aspects come off as sincere and extremely charming. Its hardly an original idea pitting polar opposites against each other for laughs, there is the whole ‘buddy cop’ genre after all, but I must admit, having people of different generations opposite each other was something I hadn‘t encountered prior to this film but it was nonetheless a novel and pleasant surprise. Relying more heavily on the major differences and diverging interests, it could be seen as veering a little heavily into the world of stereotypes as Ethel pronounces hip-hop to be the ‘Devil’s music’, whilst Ruben is a casual drug user who‘s jeans sag, ticking practically every box of the hip hop fan Pre-conceptions. With that in mind though, as I said earlier, the chemistry between the two is genuinely quite heart-warming and culminates in Ruben celebrating Ethel’s birthday with her, going beyond his required commitments of the community service.
Performances were quite impressive, Ritter, who plays Ruben has a rather detailed character in what is an exceptionally quick narrative based short film, but still plays him to a good standard. Ruben’s music taste is evident as new wave hip-hop/rap populates the soundtrack in its entirety, it’s made explicitly clear he’s a habit of casual drug use, and it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to notice he’s a pretty bad driver. His arc is based solely on relenting from this bad boy persona and when the duo finally warm to each other, it shows the mastery of the short film medium from a directing perspective, all character information is inferred, save from one or two details and it really creates a thoroughly fleshed out world and believable characters. Additionally, Kathy O’Grady in her role of Ethel is similarly brilliant. Though her character is more reliant on exposition, her largely physical, slapstick performance gives a motive as to why she’s a little defensive at first and makes her wish for a company a little more heartbreaking as we learn of her ex-husband’s cheating, and her son who makes very little contact.
This was genuinely a special watch, especially in the current circumstances, this slice of normality is perhaps just what the doctor ordered for some potential viewers out there. That said, it’s not the most perfectly crafted film of all time, which is a little harsh to say but is to an extent, just. At times the cinematography dropped from its solid standard and became a little jarring as pull focuses and other shot transitions were just a little clunky and badly executed. Furthermore, the editing was very noticeable, yes at parts this is intentional, there’s a greatly structured montage but the rest of what is meant to be continuity editing was a little too on the nose for me personally and again jarring. With that in mind though, having had firsthand experience in both of these fields, it’s an incredibly hard job to replicate professional standards and is likely just a matter of personal preference.
A resourceful and sweet film which left me desperately wanting more from the characters with its criminally short run time, I’d recommend you give this a watch whenever you can, short, sweet and free (Currently available on YouTube) there’s a lot to love about this title!
Reviewed By: #TomJay