Updated: Oct 25, 2020
Directed by #JulianneDonelle
Written by #TizianaGiammarino
Award-winning LA filmmaker Julianne Donelle adds a worthy credit to her directorial resumé with this powerful short that delves into an uncomfortable, but undeniably life-changing, psychological affliction. Survivor’s guilt.
When young teacher Emily (Jessica Parker Kennedy) becomes the sole survivor of a devastating terrorist attack, her life is left in anguish and torment. Increasingly self-isolated from the outside world, and her husband (Nikhil Shukla), Emily realises that she will never find peace until she discovers why the bomber (Michael The) spared her life.
Penned by Tiziana Giammarino (also executive producer), Split Second is a no-nonsense, masterfully understated exploration of a sensitive and, arguably, unrepresented issue. As the haunted Emily, the presence and performance of Kennedy is a major asset to the production. In a little under 12 minutes, Kennedy convincingly charts Emily’s heart-rendering journey from kindly soul to traumatised survivor, before she finally comes within reach of an answer and a possible return to peace. Equally adept is Giammarino’s sensitive script and Pierce Cook’s absorbingly effective cinematography. As Emily becomes more detached from life and burdened by memory, we’re paradoxically drawn more closer to her, always with at her side even in the darkest of times. When the reveal does come, it’s handled just like the rest of the film; delicately, intelligently and without melodrama.
Ultimately, what makes Split Second exceptional is Donelle’s focus on the story of the survivor. When faced with such tragic events, we of course always remember victims and their loved ones. Unfortunately, we perhaps sometimes do overlook the eyewitnesses, those lives left to go on but by no means unmarked and unburdened. An early scene in Donelle’s film has the shattered Emily struggling to cope with a TV interview. It’s a telling moment which subtly goes some way to offer a suggestion for the quiet role of the survivor in the media. Often, we don’t get to hear their stories because they can’t bring themselves to tell it. Even more unsettling is Donelle’s bold decision to humanise the terrorist of the story, where a “split second” moment of empathy, coupled with Emily’s warmth, temporarily re-awakens some humanity in the character. Most surprisingly, Donelle leaves us with even Emily acknowledging this by the film’s end.
With a solid cast, first-class filmmaking and exemplary tactful storytelling, Split Second is an excellent treatment of a difficult subject all too easily overlooked. With more films like this, that could soon change.