Directed by Justin Ehlers, Nathan Lawrence
Starring Justin Ehlers, Kim Gonzales
Short Film Review by Andrew Galvin
Sinking directors Justin Ehlers and Nathan Lawrence might argue until they are blue in the face that they have made a short film, but they have not. At just a shade over three minutes and with a whole song playing through its duration, it’s a music video. And there’s nothing wrong with that; brilliant filmmakers such as Jonathan Glazer, Edgar Wright and David Fincher all worked within the format, after all (we’ll ignore that this was also the starting point for McG and Michael Bay).
There’s a decent idea at the heart of Sinking too, albeit one that we’ve seen in some form previously. We start with a man in a bathtub attempting suicide, and from there we work backwards to see what has brought him to that point. Essentially, it’s Coldplay’s The Scientist video (directed by Jamie Thraves) but set in a claustrophobic flat and lacking a big old car crash.
Backwards narratives can work in a longer form, despite the inherent difficulty of being all timey-wimey, as shown by Christopher Nolan in Memento. And in fact, the extra time that a feature allows, helps us to be more emotionally invested in the characters, which is where the problems with Sinking begin. It’s far, far too short—there’s no time to get to know the personalities of the two lead characters, the ins-and-outs of their relationship and what makes them tick. Of course, subtlety and inference play an important role in connecting us to characters; but having none of these things in the three minutes means what should be an emotional gut punch of a finale is totally lost. The song that plays over the top, by Blind Horse, lacks the emotional weight that could have lifted the short above its form.
It stands as a valiant effort, however. It might lack the technical expertise that saw Chris Martin learning to lip-sync in reverse for The Scientist, but its ambition should be praised. The backwards filming is well filmed, and there are hints at the chemistry between the two leads, although this is not fully explored. All the problems with Sinking come back to its length: perhaps just doubling the film to six minutes would have given us more of a link to the characters. In the end, this is a missed opportunity.