Updated: Jul 15, 2020
Directed by: #ArindamChatterjee
The Unfinished Diary is a drama short film from first-time filmmaker, Arindam Chatterjee, who directs and produces as well as writing the piece based on an original story written by Tanima Das Mitra. In this piece, he tackles some very sensitive subjects, with the main body exploring the idea of love and connections that transcend religious and personal beliefs. The vehicle in which he has chosen to convey this message is through the perspective of an eight year-old boy who just wants to celebrate Christmas with his friends of different religious backgrounds and hopes only for his mother's acceptance of them.
In the final third of the film, there is a pivotal moment that causes everything from tone to narrative to shift dramatically. Without revealing the impetus of this, it is a hugely affecting beat that is almost guaranteed to come as a shock and serve as something of a gut punch. The only potential negative of this moment is the way in which the news is initially delivered; the messenger that provides the revelation is somewhat lax in his explanation, given the severity. It is important to note, though, that this may be a case of something being lost in translation when producing the subtitles, as it is originally an Indian film.
What really sells this impactful beat is the acting from the lead, Tanima Bhattacharya, who plays the boy's mother. As we witness her life be devastated, the performance is guttural and raw; she screams out remarks of utter disbelief, clawing at her cheeks as she holds her face, completely erratic. It makes for some uncomfortable viewing and, for a film that hones in on such difficult topics, so it should. During this scene, there is also an effective direction choice in which, along with the tone, the film's visuals shift, from colour to black and white. While it certainly does work in execution, it does feel like a trick that has been somewhat overused in the past.
Told in a non-linear fashion that can at first feel confusing, it is a film that benefits from multiple viewings. After watching a second or third time, however, it does prove to be a rewarding experience that has a lot more to say than it may initially appear - its message seems to be that of overcoming ignorance and prejudice. While bleak in its narrative, tone and purposefully washed out, dull colours, the message appears to be a positive one, one of hope that advocates the benefits of looking beyond differences. That's not to say watching it is a joyous experience; before we get to that message, we also see the devastation the opposite can cause and the ripple effect that can have.
Overall, it is often clear that this is Chatterjee's debut film, due to some confusing storytelling, overused dramatic techniques and subtitles that don't fully deliver the scenes' intended impact. However, this isn't enough to bring down the importance and positivity of the film's message and it is this, alongside the bittersweet note that it goes out on, that make it a piece that is certainly worth viewing. At least twice.