Oct 31, 2023
Jordan Duarte, Lora Burke, Fuad Ahmed, Angela Bell
Two couples get together for a friendly dinner that leads to unexpected complications.
Married couple Peter (Duarte) and Ava (Burke) have invited Matt (Ahmed), an old acquaintance of Peter, to their home for a nice dinner and some catch-up. Joining them will also be Matt's partner Sam (Bell). Initially, the four of them will chat and laugh while sitting at the table, discussing simple things, however the subjects of discussion will eventually become more serious and the drama will arrive.
An intriguing short drama about a get-together that does not go the way the attendees expect it to. The four of them will talk about a variety of subjects including work and past experiences, including how Matt and Sam met, generally innocent things to begin with and the conversation turns dramatic and confrontational when they proceed to talk about gender equality in the workforce and open marriage.
Now would probably be the time to point out that the popular board game chess plays a crucial role in this film. The short begins with a quote by French political leader and military commander Napoleon Bonaparte which suggests that people are either kings or pawns, emperors or fools. The film connects this quote to chess and to the narrative. The screenplay constantly cuts to a chessboard with chess pieces, with one or two being moved by an unseen person (their identity could be anyone's guess). The significance of this is that the pawns represent the four characters and everytime one of them makes a comment that offends someone, the film cuts to a chess piece making a move, signifying a sort of attack. Also, considering the quote above, the film implies that among the protagonists there are pawns and those who control them, which is perhaps more obvious in the situation between Ava and Peter, as she gave up her career in order to take care of their daughter, while he maintained his job and therefore (in some ways) became superior to his wife.
The opening credits deserve credit for the interesting creativity involved. Each time an actor's name shows up on screen, it does so with the close-up of a chess piece, indicating that particular chess piece represents the character and the result is Peter and Ava being the white king and queen and Matt and Sam are the black king and queen. This technique also indicates that the two couples are engaging in a battle between them.
Bell's sharp script creates scenes where the characters get into confrontation but not directly, instead unwilling insults resulting in drama and revealing a person's flaws. One character whose flaws are obvious is Matt, who repeatedly checks his phone while others are talking.
Regarding the technical side of things, the film is beautifully shot by Roberts and the cinematography looks wonderful thanks to Stephen Bell and Eric Moniz. The dramatic music by Ian Cusson is also a great plus at it creates an interesting atmosphere with the violin and piano melodies.
The scenes with the chess pieces are probably the most memorable part in this short, which does not mean that without them there is no significant value, as the clever dialogue, the strong performances, the explored themes and the revelation at the end make this a viewing experience well worth one's while.