Directed by: Mahmoud Shoolizadeh
Starring: Jennifer Preston, Mitchell Thornton and Holly Lawton
Short Film Review by: Annie Vincent
Susan: a kind, thoughtful woman who loses everything, is placed in the worst circumstances anyone can imagine, has her life fall down around her completely and still finds a way to carry on. When a ‘rising from the ashes’ family drama is dangled in front of me, I am hopeful. Aren’t we all? Dramas are great, even if they cost you a box of tissues and some hideously puffy eyes. Sadly, what this film delivered was far from ‘great’.
From the outset, Susan is a self-indulgent film that spends far too much time trying to ‘tell’ its audience what is happening, rather than show them. In the opening sequence we meet Susan, travelling through London in a cab, scrolling through photos of her husband who, she tells us in voice over, has died on duty in Afghanistan. This could have been such a moving montage, but instead it was repetitive, cliché and insincere, particularly as the actress, Preston, began every sentence in this sequence with a whining ‘oh’ and a big sigh, reminiscent of Juliet up on her balcony in Act 2, Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s play. She seemed disappointed rather than distraught. Sadly, rather than let us move on from the slightly hollow opening, we had to continue enduring it through a ten-minute montage of Susan, her husband Paul and their daughter Lisa playing in a park without much sound and in slow motion. It was painstaking and added absolutely nothing to the audience’s understanding of the family dynamic. Yes, when a character is grieving we expect glossy, rose-tinted memories with soft edges and a slightly yellow glow, and the cameraman delivered this perfectly, but the same memory, for nearly ten minutes?!
Things don't get better as Susan is subjected to artificial sympathy from a friend who spends her time trying to convert her to Christianity: if Susan’s tragedy doesn’t move audiences, her vapid and selfish friend will. Then, when made even more vulnerable by a second tragedy (the implausible nature of some of the plot details will be covered shortly), Susan does turn to God, venting her anger at him in the local church and is, again unsympathetically, counselled by the vicar who tells her that the perpetrator of her sorrow didn’t mean it! The scripting isn’t just bad, it is incredibly frustrating and the acting suffers because of it: no one can really feel their character emotions or motivations because they must deliver these vacuous lines.
The plot doesn’t ever redeem itself as a series of highly improbable and poorly researched circumstances occur to, at first, save Susan, then devastate her again, before finally putting her on the right path in the dying seconds of the film.
Slating films isn’t enjoyable but some fundamentals have been missed here and it creates a frustrating and hollow viewing experience. The obvious technical competence of the filmmakers is lost to poor plotting and sequences, inane scripting and some self-indulgent photography which extends the film to feature length, when it really shouldn’t be.
Watch the official movie trailer below...