Directed by: Joaquin Sharpe Jr Starring: Ethin Goodman and Jared Hittle Short Film Review by: Annie Vincent
The Gem, one of two short films currently in circulation from Joaquin Sharpe Jr, is an amateur short film with a tragically ironic title.
The film follows two boys, Ethan and David, as they wander along some wastleland and spy a glowing rock. David goes to pick it up, only to find his hand is fixed to it and when Ethan tries to help him, an explosion causes them both to be thrown to the ground. David’s immediate instinct is to run away, while Ethan secretly pockets the stone. What follows is a hastily shot sequence of conversations between the two boys which the audience have to work surprisingly hard at to understand, mainly because there is no confirmation that this gem has done anything to either of the boys. David appears to have slept for sixteen hours since the explosion and has woken with a headache. He makes a call on his phone which exacerbates his pain, causing him to knock over a deodorant can in his bathroom. Nothing too problematic here, but there are some mumbled lines about soap and the sort of vague notion that we need to pay attention to this moment – like David didn’t try to knock it over, it just happened itself. Next, David and Ethan are driving home to radio reports of a robbery of their local shop at gunpoint. Ethan then reveals he has a lot of money which he’s looking forward to spending and David immediately jumps to the conclusion that Ethan held up the shop with their ‘new powers’! I must have missed a scene here because I didn’t know they had powers, though apparently both of our characters knew. Later, David makes some remarks about his gym workout being incredible and how he managed to lift a tree, as he walks by a damaged tree. It’s unclear whether this is male, teenage bravado, but his apparent strength crops up again and again in the next few minutes of the script. Finally, David and Ethan become embroiled in a sort of comic-style battle, complete with ‘kapow’ sound effects and graphics, but the audience isn’t quite clear about why. Perhaps the characters know that too, but they don’t give much away.
The script isn’t the only issue here though unfortunately. Whilst the comic-style effects might have worked in a film of a different tone, here there is a tragic juxtaposition of Yamaha-keyboard sound effects and 1980s comedy explosion graphics, with a scrap of wasteland in Michigan, circa 2017 and a script that attempts realism but is so woefully clichéd not even the actors themselves believe in the motivations and feelings of their characters, with Ethan’s horror at the destruction of his home at the hands of his best friend the most underplayed reaction I have ever seen in an actor. Sadly, very little in this film works to engage, excite or entertain.
The fact the film was shot solely on an iPhone 7 is possibly the only impressive thing here because some nice effects have been achieved by Kat McCormick, including up-shots angles and close ups in the car, but whilst there is some skill in the filming, it comes to no effect because of the severe lack of understanding about storytelling here. As such, The Gem is a film you can afford to miss.