★★★★ Directed by: Richard Prendergast Written by: Richard Prendergast Starring: Jolie Lennon, Benjamin Hartley Short Film Review by: Chris Olson
The road trip movie is a long established cinematic genre that allows the audience to become an actual passenger to the plot that unfolds (most commonly with plenty of escapades along the way). In short film Sylvia, the journey as well as the car itself play vital roles in the storytelling, based on a tragic true story.
Jolie Lennon plays Mandy, a mother of two who is carting her daughters and mother across the country where she plans to sell her beloved car called Sylvia. At first, the conflict seems to come from her family members ignoring Mandy's constant reminders to keep the car clean for its new owner (spoilers: spillages and lollipops do ensue) but as the adventure progresses, a different tale emerges and one with an emotional kick to the gut.
Tender storytelling and loaded with awesome distance shots, writer and director Richard Prendergast achieves a phenomenal sense of drama through his short film. The comedy and poignancy are in perfect harmony, allowing the viewer to immerse themselves into the movie and feel its full effect without being forewarned either way. Some lovely visual tricks are on hand to make the whole experience feel hearty and intriguing.
Above: the official movie trailer for short film Sylvia.
Lennon is superb in the lead role, handling her character's demanding backstory with deft care and attention. The result is a knockout final third that is utterly lifted by her commanding on screen presence. The supporting players are also great and there is a wonderful chemistry between the family members.
By leaning on some classic cinematic tropes, Prendergast sets his audience up to experience the film on familiar ground. The twists and turns which emerge in the journey are brilliantly delivered and this contrast between the expected and the unusual is needed to get the audience to pick up on the message which comes. Had the viewer been given more warning signs they may have anticipated too much and felt less of an impact come the short's climax. Prendergast is then able to communicate the themes of the story more efficiently which include loss, family, community and endurance.
A remarkable piece with a fantastic central performance, Sylvia is a short film much like its namesake: reliable, not faultless but in pretty good condition, and able to provide you with a fantastic journey.