Directed by: Darin Guerrasio
Starring: Liz Noth, Jake Smith and Darin Guerrasio
Short Film Review by: Annie Vincent
Following the death of a friend, Jessica returns to her home town – a place she hasn’t visited for a long time. With grief hanging over her, she is confronted by old friends and past mistakes and is forced to see that she must deal with her guilt. In this, his third directorial role, Guerrasio again examines deep human emotions, but a subtle humour emerges to produce a satisfying short in Wake.
The film opens with Michelle parked outside a house; the funeral programme and the dark clothing our clue that she is about to arrive at a wake. It’s clear she knows the deceased well – her name, Jessica, is scrawled on a CD she has just removed from the player. But a few steps out of the car; she turns back. It’s too much for her, we assume ... Later, she attends Angie’s high-school reunion-come Jessica-memorial party, but it is clear she is far from comfortable. Though she seems to get along with Ali (Smith) and Tim (Guerrasio), she receives a cold reception from her old friend Caitlin, is flatly ignored by a man named Kevin, and despite Ali and Tim’s best efforts to keep her at the party, she eventually walks out after Caitlin confronts her with an old betrayal that left Jessica heartbroken - suddenly our protagonist isn't quite the 'friend' we had assumed. Unable to accept her guilt and her loss, Michelle falls out with Ali and wanders alone all night; until Tim is able to help her clear a way forward.
While the subject matter is heavy, the production in short film Wake lifts it. Throughout, there is enough humour to save the characters from the depths of despair, including an amusing performance by Janie Stolar and Evan Kaufman as passive-aggressive couple Angie and Bobby – a sickly sweet duo who beautifully hold up the tension between a couple who are only ever a millisecond away from attempted murder. The musical accompaniment throughout the film is thoughtful, but uplifting and the crowd-pleasing ending serves up a sweet little short that delivers that warm, fuzziness you’d expect from a character film.
This is a much more polished film in comparison to Guerrasio’s previous short, Decamping. The dialogue and subtle (and sometimes dark) humour have remained, but the production is sharper: the camerawork is more varied and there’s a greater use of musical montage to develop characters; the sound quality is superior here too as is the lighting quality. In all, this is a first-rate and engaging short that is certain to make audiences smile.