Symptoms short film


Directed by Marianna Dean

Starring Dan Lam, Zoe Cunningham, Amy Newton, Katharine Davenport, Steve Peck, Denys Gaskill, Serhat Metin, Jeryl Burgess, Maria Ingold, Fernando Augusto Oliveira, Flynn Jarvis, Reynah Rita Oppal and Melissa Luke

Short Film Review by Michael Fiott


Symptoms reminds us of a situation that we have all been in, preparing for the dreaded terror of a test that can determine our future, our own symptoms include sweaty hands, a pacing heart and a palpable tension when entering an exam hall...or in this case a hospital.

Dan Lam gives us a humble and smart performance as Sam, a young trainee doctor entering into an examination where all of his patients are trained actors. When going over each ‘patient’ and their individual symptoms, he is then marked on how well he communicates with them, treats them, his knowledge of the job and of course his hand hygiene.

Straight from the start we are able to see Marianna Dean’s directing talent, with a very impressive opening single shot that introduces us to Sam and sets the light hearted and slightly comedic tone of the first half of the film. The quality of the shooting is not diminished as it progresses either and keeps it’s tone by never sitting still for long on any shot, with its slow pans and handheld motion which give the movie a natural setting and allows us to feel as though we are stood next to the characters.

When it comes to characters, the best ones are that of the hired actors, through simple actions and a few lines of dialogue we are able to see their personalities shine through, especially in the character of Ben (Steve Peck) who is by far the most humorous character in the short and provides us with the most entertaining examination of the bunch. The tone is doubled by the use of music from Neil Myers, although the tunes used sometimes reminded me of a sitcom of days gone by, it does meld well with what we are seeing and helps to keep the pace moving along.

This brings me to the most important use of sound in Symptoms, which, ironically, is silence. It is when Sam enters the last examination room that the film decides to take its humour and kindness and politely sets it aside to remind us of our vulnerability in this world. It does this by cutting out the music when Sam speaks to Amy (Zoe Cunningham), this simple yet effective method of grabbing our attention lets us know immediately that Amy is going to tell a different story than the rest of her acting peers and that in fact, she is not going to be acting at all. Cunningham manages to deliver the best performance of the running time, allowing real and raw emotion to show unfiltered as Sam gives the most honest support he can give in his suddenly real situation.

Symptoms is a film of real promise from director Marianna Dean, within a short space she manages to convey tension, laughter and ultimately sadness, in a story that would resonate with the majority of audiences and most importantly it reminds us of what we all find to be most comforting, somebody to talk to.

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