1 Jul 2022
Shanique Alexis, Krista Adams
‘Words, words, words’ is one of the most famous lines of Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’, and the great playwright would be pleased to know that it's a message still being preached today, albeit in a different context. ‘Unmasked’ wants to get people talking, but at the same time stop people talking - only positive words are allowed!!
Unfortunately, that’s a message I can’t wholly reciprocate in this review, though there are certainly positives to take away in Akil Joefield’s short film. It’s best to get the bad stuff out the way first. There are, quite frankly, too many words - ‘a little less conversation, a little less action’ sang Elvis, and that could not be more true for ‘Unmasked’. The words all roll into one depressive monologue, each sounding the same and amalgamating into an ultimately shallow pit of despair. There are interesting ideas surrounding depression and mental health involved, but they’re delivered so blandly by narrator Krista Adams that it’s hard to care.
This means that the message of ‘Unmasked’, which is actually layered and extremely thoughtful, comes across as shallow and like a teenager’s diary. The script is so turgid and determined to maintain a serious tone that it ends up saying nothing at all. It’s introspective, but to the extent where it becomes self-centred, and fails to cater for the audience - who demand something more than the countless other short films about mental health released each year.
That being said, ‘Unmasked’ does possess some of the boldest directorial choices from all of those many films (literally, there are SO MANY). Akil Joefield’s direction, coupled with their creative editing makes for moments of inspiration, though they are too far and few between the long periods of monotonous narration. When Joefield runs riot is when the film excels and threatens to set itself apart from its counterparts, it’s just a shame that doesn’t happen too often. Lead actress Shanique Alexis also does a solid job as her unnamed character, and one wonders how different the film would have been had she done the narration instead.
‘Unmasked’ has a lot of good stuff it wants to say but doesn’t quite know how to say it. There are moments of creative genius, but they are scarce in a film which is too often just boring - something a seven-minute short should never be. Still, there’s potential in ‘Unmasked’, it’s just a shame it's never truly revealed.