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Can Be

average rating is 3 out of 5


James Learoyd


Posted on:

Feb 26, 2024

Film Reviews
Can Be
Directed by:
Mohammedally Shushtari
Written by:
Mohammedally Shushtari
Mohammedally Shushtari, Elle Zahrouni, Raghad Chaar

Can Be is a promising piece of filmmaking. Simple yet engaging, it uses the short-form medium effectively; however, occasional technical issues means that the piece struggles to truly reach its full potential. Giving us an emotional snippet of two siblings’ fraught relationship, the film explores the baggage of their pasts through a therapy session -- serving as the single scene and location for the 13-minute runtime. As the reasons for characters’ resentments become clearer, there are some engrossing moments. One would hope that the film was more polished than is the case, but there’s still a whole lot to love about this dramatic chamber piece...


For instance, the performances alone make it worth a watch. With a level of vulnerability and simultaneous restraint, our three actors make great use of the quiet moments. Understanding the ways in which silence can add to dramatic tension - without making it feel overused or gimmicky - is a sign of a skilled performer. For the most part, all three players appear consistently natural, clearly aware of how their mannerisms play on camera. Certain bits of delivery come across as clunky, but it remains more a distraction than a glaring flaw. As with all dramatic pieces, the actors play perhaps the most significant part in the film’s overall quality and watchability, so thankfully those featured in Can Be are very much giving it their all.


While conventional, the short certainly has a functional, pleasing look: it’s soft yet nice and contrasty -- the grade, in particular, is of a professional standard. Directorially, there’s also a clear understanding of space... for instance, the filmmakers effectively craft a three-pointed conversation by using the 180-degree line to their advantage. Unfortunately, the visuals (unlike the performances) aren’t consistent: there are noticeable problems that a conventional audience member may not be willing to look past – most notably the central, medium close-up of the therapist has clearly suffered a great deal of warp stabilisation in post-production. I, personally, would have much preferred it if they had kept their unsupported camera obviously handheld -- embrace the on-set decision and own the imperfections, for attempting to glaze over it leaves an ugliness.


Can Be also suffers from a script that feels immediately familiar to us, and dialogue that reminds one of countless other creations about tortured family dynamics. This can make the story (particularly during the first few minutes) feel trite. However, as more discussion transpires, the central relationship between brother and sister thankfully reveals itself to be more complex, original and ultimately interesting to a viewer. Perhaps further work on the screenplay could have illuminated ways to get to the richer elements of the relationship; the meat of narrative without the fat... though the script relies on a central tension which unfortunately proves less engaging.


There’s some wonderful work on show. I urge the filmmakers to keep creating, because their cinematic skills and creative abilities are more than apparent. One might also suggest hanging on to the other performers! - as discussed, the craft of a genuinely strong actor can elevate the piece considerably. I’m anticipating more exciting work from those behind Can Be.

About the Film Critic
James Learoyd
James Learoyd
Short Film
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