Directed by: The Flaherty Brothers
Starring: Ari Flaherty, Josh Flaherty, Peter Gonzalez, Alfredo Rengifo, Kimmy Dunn, Zachary Harrington
Short Film Review by: Jack Bottomley
Families eh? They can’t half be a handful. Well in The Flaherty Brothers’ – Ari and Josh (who both co-star also) – short Tavern, we see a family with far more going on than who promised to take mum shopping! This drama/thriller is a pilot for a short series and, as the directors said, is intended to “leave the audience eager to see the next episode”. On those grounds I say, mission accomplished.
As with many pilots there are some wrinkles, in some over the top lines of dialogue or moments of performance but Tavern had me intrigued as to where it was going and once it got there I was put in mind of David Michôd’s 2014 dystopic Drama The Rover, in that the plot revolves around one very simple aspect or McGuffin. By the end of this short, you are certainly left at a point of wanting to see the stakes that are bound to follow and how the Flaherty’s will develop their skills in taking you there.
The narrative sees ex-marine Scott (Ari Flaherty) pulled into a situation by his criminal brother Alex (Josh Flaherty), after their dad has disappeared during a job. It is a simple set up and heavily influenced by some of the power plays that take part in established crime/gangster pictures, with a far more pulled back approach and setting. That said, Director of Photography Nicholas D’Agostino has effectively used some real world backdrops for this short and, doubled with sparse moments of pulsating original music by Quinn McGovern, Tavern certainly has the grit to match its bravado.
The script is simple in its outlook but with the promise of more to come and while some things are heavy handed, the ambition of staging some genuinely exciting fight sequences and violent spurts in-between the family hierarchical turmoil has really paid off and as Tavern progresses you find yourself getting very settled in its story and seeing how it all pans out.
Ari Flaherty is very resolute as lead Scott, as his on (and off) screen brother Josh harnesses an almost Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor-like criminal eccentricity. As there is also strong support from an action ready Alfredo Rengifo and Peter Gonzalez, while smaller characters like Kimmy Dunn’s Lucy and Zachary Harrington’s Peter, seem like they will be built up later. Overall Tavern is manufactured around these brothers’ fragile relationship, a battle of honour against ego, and alludes to the dark past of the family and while the script lacks emotional punch, there is a feeling that some may arrive later down the line.
Tavern has drive and no fear of blistering its knuckles, as the short is well shot, dressed (the make-up work by Derek Cloonen is not overdone and realistically bruised) and staged. This is clearly the first step into a wider story of patriarchal power and family war and as a taste of what is to comes it works well in flexing the filmmaking muscles of its driven crew and raising anticipation of the viewer.