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Total Performance - short film review

Written and Directed by Sean Meehan

Starring Tory Berner, Steven Conroy, Caitlin Berger, Timothy J. Cox

Short film review by Hannah Sayer

Total Performance is a confidently produced portrayal of a struggling actress whose current job consists of her being a ‘sparring dummy’ to take in other people’s abuses. The narrative centres on Cori, played by Tory Berner, an actress who works for a company named Total Performance who employ actors to rehearse difficult conversations with their clients. Examples of these practice encounters can be break ups, confessions or firing an employee. Sean Meehan’s writing is a clever depiction of the emotional effects this line of work has on its lead, even though she is successful in what she does.

The short film introduces Cori’s difficult employment as she goes into an office-like room and plays a cheating wife whose husband is confronting her after finding out about her years of betrayal. This initial encounter is intercut effectively with Cori’s first date with Tim, played by Steven Conroy, as she describes how her work is just practice for an actress. Tory Berner expertly portrays Cori as both intelligent and confident in what she does while highlighting how this has formed underlying vulnerability and insecurity. When Cori meets Tim for the first time on this date, he asks her whether she is able to turn her work on and off, as he compares her line of work to being like a therapist. It is unclear whether she really can. The evidence of her crying at the first encounter with her client in the film suggests the inner turmoil caused by this line of work and the emotional effects this has had on her.

After an exciting and unexpected twist which leads to an emotionally thought provoking and open ending, it is made clear that Cori and Tim are more similar than they might think. Actions speak louder than words in the final scene. The act of hiding in the dark room as a conversation takes place elsewhere in the house acts as an effective metaphor for Cori hiding in the shadows of this job as she struggles to make her way as an actress. Chris Loughran’s cinematography conveyed the juxtaposition of the darkness and the light skilfully in this scene, as the troubling intensity begins to erupt. Sean Meehan’s interesting concept of dealing with emotional conflict, and having to talk about it before undergoing the actual confrontation, is an idea that some viewers may find appealing as a company that they wished really did exist.

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