Directed by: Nicholas Goodwin
Written by: #NicholasGoodwin
Written and directed by Nicholas Goodwin, short film Shadow opens with student, Jane (Carpenter) parked in her car pensively, yet eagerly, leaving a voicemail for (later discovered) mutual crush Allen (Hopkins) as she prepares to meet him at a party. Trough non-linear sequences, Shadow then depicts the events that transpired before, during and after the party we see Jane preparing to attend.
In a culturally relevant short confronting serious and timely subject-matter, Goodwin’s direction shows promise as he extracts confident performances from Carpenter and Hopkins, as well as showing a knack for using music that evokes a melancholic and portentous tone synonymous with the tone of the narrative. Since its re-emergence in Hollywood cinema in the early 1990’s, non-linear storytelling has often been used without any purpose, but here, it never feels like a gimmick; rather, a clever way to exacerbate the already sombre-filled film.
However, some of the other stylistic choices made by Goodwin do create problems within the film – primarily: jarring inconsistency. From the sequence shots in the mould of a #PaulThomasAnderson picture, to the fast-cutting style of an #EdgarWright film, Goodwin never really decides on the best way to present his narrative. Unfortunately, at times, Shadow (purely as a technical piece of work) feels too experimental and would have been improved with a more disciplined and coherent structure. The film also suffers from issues that should have been prevented in the editing process. Most notably, instances of drowning of the dialogue under the heavy sound of the (potent) score – all the more problematic as the dialogue is consistently authentic and studiously-written.
Despite these technical hitches, at the core of the film is Carpenter’s performance as Jane; there’s no doubt that the film is at its best when she’s on-screen. In a tough role requiring empathy and craftsmanship, she arrests the audience throughout with a mature and convincing turn. The film’s best quality is that Jane is the emphasis of the film for its 12-minute entirety, and Carpenter is good enough to pull off the demanding role. Hopkins also impresses as Allen in what could easily be dismissed as a ‘lesser role’.
Overall, the film makes brave thematic and narrative choices without ever feeling unnecessarily exploitative. It’s admirable that Goodwin is using his medium to convey a message: a message about a misogynistic, inequitable society. But, unfortunately, the messenger sometimes gets it wrong on a technical level. However, I have no doubt he will find his identity as a filmmaker in the future, due to his talent for getting impressive performances from his cast, as well as demonstrating a passionate, conscientious voice as a writer. Shadow should be watched for Carpenter’s performance alone, and I eagerly await her next role.