Updated: Jan 25, 2020
Directed by: #RickyTownsend
Written by: Ricky Townsend
Truth.exe is a short film directed by Ricky Townsend about a ‘hacktivist’ named G1ll (Felix Elliott) – pronounced Gill - who is tasked with releasing the contents of a USB stick that seemingly has on it a vital ‘truth’ that for some reason is being withheld. Completing this task becomes much harder by forces hellbent on stopping him completing his apparently simple task.
Townsend appears to be heavily influenced by the surrealism genre and David Lynch, in particular. Watching G1ll slowly unravel in this outlandishly strange world as he seeks to complete his task, is reminiscent of Naomi Watts and Laura Henning tiptoeing around Los Angeles trying to recover ‘Rita’s’ identity in Mulholland Drive; eerie, visually arresting prolonged shots of something seemingly innocuous, reminds you of Peter Deming’s work shooting Twin Peaks: The Return; and Snow Valormae’s (at times) timeless, echoey score is similar to Angelo Badalamenti’s masterful theme in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (with noticeable exceptions that veer off in to the world of sci-fi).
Having appreciated this due to being a big David Lynch fan myself, It was disappointing to be finishing the film trying to work out why exactly I wasn’t in love with it.
For large parts Truth.exe feels tonally inconsistent and jarring. Townsend is clearly trying to produce a film that belongs to the surrealist genre, but great surrealism doesn’t take the form of science-fiction to justify its surrealism; halfway through, Truth.exe abruptly takes the form of an eighties sci-fi show with its fast-paced electro synth and cyberpunk-like score, as well as questionable visual choices toward the end that scream science-fiction. Furthermore, by making the plot and themes of the film more clear halfway through the short, Townsend is losing patience with surrealism and is making a film that’s more explainable and, therefore, more bereft of surrealism.
There are good performances by the two leads, Eliott and Roanna Dalziel. Elliott does a good job of portraying someone lost and vulnerable, and Dalziel is clearly having fun portraying ‘the woman’ with a calm, yet aggressive turn, and Townsend’s writing is at its best when adopting a surreal edge.
Without doubt, Townsend is a talented filmmaker with a keen eye for detail and a wonderful patience behind the camera that allows a shot to linger. He understands important conventions of filmmaking, such as how to enable a fright and create tension. Furthermore, he appreciates what needs to be in the frame (and what needs to be out for that manner), and also has a striking visual style sure to resonate with an audience. Unfortunately, such qualities sometimes get lost in this jarring multi-genre short.