Directed by: #AsherLines
Written by: #AsherLines
Death on film is often a morbid affair, and in most cases rightly so. Though even in mourning, there is some space for humour, and it is this dark brand of comedy that writer-director Asher Lines utilises in Tracy. The short film, one of several from the young filmmaker, is surprisingly cheery considering its focus on grief, but it is this contrast between tone and subject matter that makes the project memorable.
Tracy (Sophie Sharp) is a widow who is struggling to move on from the death of her husband, Simon. Living in denial and pretending that Simon is still alive, she is faced with a reality check when her in-laws decide to move away and want to take their son’s ashes with them. Unsure of how to get on with her life, Tracy clings to her deluded fantasy for as long as possible.
What clinches you from the opening moments of Tracy is the unexpectedly cheerful vibe. Roman Falkenstein’s upbeat score playing over shots of a gloomy graveyard perfectly set up the tone that the film is going for. A dark comedy at heart, much of short’s humour comes from cleverly staged jokes that have instant payoffs. Tracy preparing a meal for Simon only to scrape its entirety into the bin one quick cut later is just one example of the film’s offbeat humour. Praise must go to Lines for the setup of such scenes and to Annalisa Boyd for her editing of them.
Sophie Sharp takes the titular role of Tracy and is another reason why much of the short’s comedy works so well. Her bemused expressions, while so clearly in denial of Simon’s death, never fail to bring a smile. Thrown into Tracy’s situation are a handful of supporting characters, most of whom are somewhat unsympathetic to her plight. Alexis Meshida plays the widow’s self-interested therapist, Jade, who tolerates her patient just so long as she keeps paying. Martin Sadd and Ruth Cattell take on the role of Simon’s parents, with both seeming to have run out of patience with their delusional daughter-in-law. Finally, there’s James Nicholson, who is the only pillar of support for Tracy in the role of Simon’s acquaintance, Jack.
One of the most noteworthy aspects of Tracy is how it makes light of grief without taking away any of its sorrow or importance. Despite all the humour, you still have a level of sympathy for Tracy and her bleak situation. Holding on to the idea that her dead husband is still there appears to be easier for Tracy than letting him go forever. A short but poignant sequence in the film’s latter stages consisting of almost zero dialogue highlights just how challenging and lonely it can be to move on from a loved one who’s passed away.
Where the film does fall short is in some aspects of the screenplay, which feels wooden and bland compared to the thoughtful craft. A handful of exchanges, particularly between Tracy and her in-laws, come off as unnatural, and much of the spoken humour falls flat, though I did enjoy virtually all of the ‘dead’ puns. These script issues are most prominent in the short’s final moments, as things wrap up a little too conveniently for Tracy in a turn that comes out of left field.
That being said, Tracy is a well-made and enjoyably upbeat short that touches on everything that makes grieving so challenging while still managing to make you chuckle. Asher Lines’ alternative approach to what would have otherwise been a dour film is what makes it worth seeking out.