20 Aug 2021
David Arkema, Clayton Stocker Myers, Elizabeth Saint
They say that the best revenge is a life well lived. Someone probably should have probably shared that snippet of wisdom with the co-leads of Insentient, who have decided that the best revenge is to rob your ex-girlfriend at gunpoint – with predictably tragic consequences.
Heartbroken after discovering his girlfriend’s (Elizabeth Saint) infidelity, Stan (David Arkema) enlists his brother Marty (Clayton Stocker Myers) in a revenge plan. At a diner, the pair discuss their scheme – which will involve an armed break-in and the theft of an undisclosed item that has great meaning to the former lovers. But as the brothers take action, they discover that plans made in anger never go as expected.
Insentient is an ambitious short film that tries its best to formulate thought-provoking statements on the futility of revenge and the inability to let go. But it is let down by a half-baked story and clunky dialogue.
The film’s premise is basic enough – a jilted lover embarking on a revenge mission with an ally who does not share the same emotional red mist. But this ends up over-complicated with the inclusion of a bizarre, mysterious Mcguffin the pair are planning to steal. This item is never explained nor revealed, and the pair’s determination to acquire it feels forced because of this. Quite what would be so precious to all three characters, with their varying motivators, is left ambiguous – and comes across as a failed attempt at forcing an unnecessary mystique onto the film. Marcelles Wallace’s briefcase this is not.
There seems to have also been a determination to pack in as much cliched, hokey dialogue as possible into the short’s 20-minute runtime. Some low-lights include “Death is peace”, “What if she’s packing?” and constant, uncomfortable and elusive references to the mysterious ‘It’. Designed to add depth to the film, this instead results in barely a line of believable, human exchange in the piece. The need to preserve the unnecessary mystery of the item desired by the brothers is a major culprit in the awkwardness of the writing, but beyond that, other moments are simply contrived and trite. Too many awkward attempts at meaningful one-liners lead to disappointing consequences.
It's a shame because the film is shot well, with some effective shaky camera work which emphasises the uncertainty and inexperience of the two brothers. The tension leading up to the invasion is built well with a rising score, and a late stand-off is handled very well by director Sohale Dezfoli. There are some missteps however, with a random cut-away to a shadowy figure featured prominently with little pay-off, or flashbacks inserted without much thought to how they serve the story.
The film is very character focused, with the brother’s relationship placed squarely at centre of the story. Clayton Stocker Myers is the highlight as Marty, who is conflicted over his loyalty to his brother and his concern about the danger of the plan. Myers brings depth to the role and shows range as the pair take things too far. David Arkema’s Stan meanwhile spends most of the film looking like he’s about to burst into tears. His fragile emotional state is on display, but it all comes across as a little over-dramatic.
There’s a decent idea in Insentient, but the director’s determination to extract deeper meaning from his film ends up undermining the depth the subject brings naturally. The short is too overcooked to be anything really special.