Sep 25, 2023
Jennifer Drummond, Sheri lee, Emily Entwisle, Marc Powers, Paul Noonan
Talking about his short film New Years, writer/director Kris Salvi has said that it’s “about as semi-autobiographical as you’re gonna get,” which presumably only accounts for half of the pretty odd plotting of the film. As the title suggests, Salvi’s film takes place one fateful evening as a family gets together to sit down for a New Year’s dinner. The relationship between Maria (Lee) and her sister Alison (Entwisle) is fractious and frayed with the two women getting into a heated argument as soon as we are introduced to them. Pretty soon Maria’s husband Mark (Powers) sticks his head into the situation and we find that their relationship is broken just as much as the sisters’. Then comes a knock on the door.
Invited into the tense household comes bleeding private eye, Carlita Veronica (Drummond) and yes that is actually the name she was given by Salvi. We previously met Carlita in the opening shots of the film as she spent an overly-extended amount of time holding onto her wounds and trying to gather herself together, but now she is ushered in with nary a thought to personal safety or stranger danger by the hapless Mark, and the sisters seem almost glad for the potentially dangerous interruption to their constant bickering.
As the plot thickens, Carlita explains how she came to be in the situation she now finds herself in and some form of backstory is revealed which revolves around some incriminating photographs and a shadowy figure known only as the ‘Big Man’. The rest of the film then becomes a waiting game as Carlita tries to ride out the time until someone comes to get her, allowing the rest of the characters to expound their petty squabbles some more.
From start to finish New Years is a pretty strange beast which on the surface just seems to be a pretty subpar attempt at a family drama with a bit of thriller energy thrown in for good measure. The scripting is bizarre and banal at the same time with some really dodgy conversations and lines being delivered throughout and the acting leaves a lot to be desired, especially from Marc Powers and Paul Noonan, who pops up towards the end of the film in another bizarre turn as Eddie Vasseli, a gangster who’s concerned about keeping a lid on things but who also freely introduces himself with his full name.
However, it is clear that Salvi has managed to achieve exactly what he set out to do. His direction is solid and secure with a number of effective shots littered throughout the film and despite the hammyness of some of the delivery he has definitely managed to get everybody on set to give their all to the project. There is a subversive undercurrent running through the film which is never quite quantifiable but definitely there the whole time and this adds an extra layer to the narrative which saves New Years from being an unmemorable flop.
As Salvi himself says, he “make[s] films that make no sense and make no money,” and it’s hard to argue with that. There is not a lot of sense to be made of New Years apart from the fact that it’s the product of someone who loves their craft and who is clearly having fun. Perhaps next time though, just a little bit of purpose and reason might be beneficial.