Directed by Mansu Edwards
Starring Shaun Malik, Sabine Simon, Oscar Lewis, Esan Skeete, Audie T Rhodes
Short Film Review by Andrew Galvin
Technological fears have long been a major mainstay of science fiction cinema. From Metropolis through 2001 to AI, scores of genius filmmakers have explored how our reliance on technology will ultimately be our downfall.
Although Mansu Edwards' film Texting In New York City could in no way be mistaken for a journey into sci-fi, it’s wariness of our umbilical connection to our mobile phones remains its dominant theme. By focusing on the social element of a very modern fear, the filmmaker’s ideas are more relevant than ever.
In essence, Texting In New York City is a silent film, with dialogue communicated through subtitles. Following a mobile phone that causes chaos after being left on the subway one evening, this choice could represent how young, inner-city people today communicate over text. Whether or not this is true, the decision to tell the story in this experimental way is both a huge advantage and its ultimate downfall. Removing spoken dialogue takes the pressure off inexperienced actors, and their performances as a result are uniformly excellent. However, in just ten minutes, it makes it far more difficult for the viewer to get to know the ensemble cast, their characters and motivations get lost in the mix very quickly as a result.
This also applies to the storytelling, which is often muddled and unclear. Viewers will be able to tell that characters are meant to be linked together, but it isn’t exactly clear how. For example, the anonymity that a stolen phone brings is taken full advantage of by Fredo (Oscar Lewis, whose charisma leaps off the screen), but when he meets his female target, it’s never clear who she thinks she is meeting, and if she knows them or not. This lack of clarity runs through to the finale when another connection isn’t fully explained, and it’s left to an awkward final frame of text to wrap up the story.
Despite all of this, Texting In New York City in a film to be praised. Despite using electronic music that sounds like three seconds of Aphex Twin looped into infinity, Edwards’ new and experimental spin on a well-worn theme is both down-to-earth and heralding of an exciting and fresh voice in American cinema. It’s worthy of your time, just make sure you don’t watch it on your phone…