First One Away
4 Oct 2021
Dan Skinner, Angus Imrie, Robbie Scotcher, Brendan Wyer
A group of men find out something extraordinary about one of their friends.
Five male friends are sitting at a table in a pub, chatting. Then one of them, Paul (Skinner) announces that it is time for him to go. However, his friends remind him that he is the first to leave and therefore he needs to tell them a joke or a story, as those are the rules between them. So he proceeds to tell them a story regarding his past. When Paul was young, his father passed away and he and his relatives frequently laid flowers on his grave and one day he noticed that the grave next to his father's never had any flowers and it consisted of a simple wooden cross with a wooden sign nailed to it which bore the name of the departed. Feeling sad for this, Paul began laying flowers to that grave as well and even started talking and singing to the deceased person. Then he noticed the name and it seemed familiar. Curious about this, he decided to find out who that person was. His decision to do so changed his life forever.
This short is a dark comedy that is filled with clever dialogue and surprising revelations. It is amusing listening to Skinner's narration and watching his friends react to his story. There is also suspense as Paul's younger version attempts to discover the indentity of the one next to his father's grave.
The narrative keeps cutting between the men at the pub and flashbacks that show young Paul's determination to learn who the late person. The filmmakers utilize interesting techniques in order to blend the present with the past. Occasionally, a character from the present suddenly appears in a flashback and even interacts with a character who belongs in the past. When this happens, the film moves back to the present, back to the pub. There is also a rather clever part, during which young Paul speaks and his voice is replaced by older Paul's voice. By using this smart technique, Paul narrates the story and puts words in the mouth of his younger version simultaneously. Skinner's voice-over works well through the story and effectively brings the scenes together.
Skinner is convincing as a friendly man who tells his incredible story to his friends who are quite mesmerized by the events he describes. Imrie does a great job as the young Paul, portraying a warm-hearted individual who is willing to do the right thing.
Nathan Baker and Alex Neofitou worked on the editing and created two montages that make good use of fast cutting and superimposition techniques and include still images. Ciaran O'Brien delivers beautiful cinematography and composer Quentin Lachapele's sentimental music helps create the right atmosphere.
This short film has great performances, good plot twists and tells the story of how a man's actions changed the course of his life. It suggests that one never knows where life is going to take them and that life is full of surprises.