Directed by: Mahmoud Shoolizadeh Written by: Mahmoud Shoolizadeh Starring: Jennifer Preston, Christopher Mulvin, Mitchell Thornton, Holly Lawton Indie Film Review by: Chris Olson
A tale of grief and trauma, Susan is a feature-length indie drama from filmmaker Mahmoud Shoolizadeh. Jennifer Preston plays the titular Susan, a character who experiences a harrowing amount of sorrow in a short space of time and attempts to cope with the inevitable changes that happen to her personality, whilst questioning the world around her.
Indulgent, saccharine at times, and melodramatic, Shoolizadeh soaks his frames with an enormous amount of soppiness in Susan. The takes are overlong, scenes often run for ages and contain repetitive dialogue, and the sound design is crackly and in some sequences jarring depending on which microphone is being used. There is an opening scene where Susan is in a cab reminiscing about her husband (Mitchell Thornton) who has been declared KIA in Afghanistan that goes on for about ten minutes, the time in which short filmmakers can bang out a beginning, middle, and an end with some twists and character development along the way. This baggy approach to the filmmaking continues throughout the movie and makes for an exhausting watch.
There were some nice moments in the cinematography department, in particular Susan grieving in front of a tree in the park or the darkly lit scene where she meets a wrongdoer (to explain would be to spoil the storyline). I also enjoyed some of the themes which are raised by Shoolizadeh, such as the role of faith in grief and the changes a person can undergo when faced with turmoil, depending on their reaction, character and choices.
That being said, audiences will not be able to escape the clunky dialogue that each of the performers struggles to wade through or the stupendously overbearing score that oozes a syrupy veneer over most of the movie. Preston goes through an endless amount of emotional breakdown scenes, by the end of which most viewers will at least applaud her enduring spirit, but she is regretfully left stranded by the story and plot.
The film could afford to shed half an hour or so and the direction is not controlled enough to maintain the viewer’s complete focus, resulting in a largely uncompelling cinematic experience. Viewers looking to wholly immerse themselves into a story of woe may be able to find refuge in Susan's bleak environment but be warned, your stay will be long and tiresome.
Watch the official movie trailer below...