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average rating is 2 out of 5


Joe Beck


Posted on:

Oct 12, 2022

Film Reviews
Directed by:
Simon Manley
Written by:
Simon Manley
Simon Manley, Janna Ramos-Violante

Simon Manley’s ‘Pencil’ wants you to know that a pencil is more than just the tool of the writer, but ultimately makes its point too vaguely to have any real bearing. The other meaning of ‘pencil’, which is kindly given at the beginning of the films is - ‘when a brief comes in, suitable artists will be sent enquiries to see if they are available for work. As soon as you respond to an enquiry to say that you are available for the given shoot day/s, you are on a pencil. Just to emphasise the point, ‘Pencil’ is awkwardly lowered a couple of lines in a visually jarring manner.


The film follows Simon (played by Simon Manley) as he goes about his life with partner Janna (Janna Ramos-Violante) debating whether he should settle down and start a family given his unpredictable work life. It appears, from my eyes because the film does not make it clear, that Simon is worried about being on pencil too often, and not being able to devote the time needed to his potential child.


Simon’s debates are so murky to understand because, for the most part, they are fragmented voiceovers, where you can hear background noise and both Manley and Ramos-Violante are mumbling. Another reason it is all so difficult to ascertain is that this a problem which very few people will understand, and five minutes is not nearly enough time to immerse yourself in the life of a barely troubled artist.


To an outsider, Simon’s initial problem - of wanting to try for a baby but not knowing whether he can devote the necessary time and love - seems reasonable and is an issue many people from all walks of life will confront at some stage. However, the addition of being on ‘pencil’ complicates matters to the point where the viewer is alienated by the situation, left wondering why Simon’s situation is so different, and if it isn’t then why is the film so focused on the term.


The film’s lack of focus is amplified by its grainy lens and an overall sense that it was shot on an iPad, also not helped by the consistently unstable camera. Manley’s direction is solid if unremarkable, never reaching any highs but also never sinking to any disastrous lows. His performance is similarly devoid of highlights, though his abject script doesn’t help too much to do in that area.


What ‘Pencil’ really needs is a good sharpening - the kind which would make its message a lot clearer, its shots a lot less grainy, and its story a lot less bland. Whilst never becoming offensively bad, it never threatens to be anything other than mediocre - in effect a weightless film. Here’s hoping the inevitable sequel ‘Pen’ will be better.

About the Film Critic
Joe Beck
Joe Beck
Short Film
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