Review: Fifty Pence
Modern short films are a tricky lot. They are generally made as calling cards for the director, cinematographer and actors to show their stuff, with the hopes of landing a feature, or as trailers to whet appetites and open wallets. Therefore, it’s hard to watch them without constantly being aware that the talent involved is also aware they have to deliver the goods that propel their careers forward. The problem, however, is that the job of the best short films, from the early days of moviemaking to now, has a diametrically opposing mission; it has to entertain. The best of these shorts, then, fall into two categories: quick, witty and funny gags that grab your attention, make you laugh and then they’re over. The others are rich, fully contained stories that must rely on the ability of the author to tell a story that is big on nuance, slight on details, and makes you think or feel something, hopefully in less than 30 minutes.
Fifty Pence director, producer, writer and lead actor, Eric Kolelas , will surely land a feature, and his cinematographer, Guillaume Miquel, hopefully, a long filmography. The direction is assured, the acting is fine, and the frame is well composed, with an energy and immediacy that is fraught with possibility. But Fifty Pence is a calling card. And you can’t forget that throughout.
Kolelas wisely chooses to tell his story visually, He understands film grammar, as well as the power of the image to convey more than the hackneyed dialogue that short films generally yield. But the film feels like an entire feature jammed into its short running time. As simple as the story pretends to be, Kolelas expects us to feel and understand things that are just not there, and can’t be there in thirteen minutes. His characters do not earn our empathy, because we have no idea what the stakes are. A young man, under duress, has to take a girl somewhere against her wishes. He plays with a coin (fifty pence) that will be the main and central prop of the story. They have a connection. Then he changes his mind. Then there’s a romance? Then he lets her go. Then it’s over.
The press kit gives more plot details than the film does, which is never a good thing. If Kolelas had just another voice involved; a writer, who could answer the questions that the viewer has, his calling card would be much more than that; it would be a fully realized story. But then again, the purpose of Fifty Pence, was to get its talent the next job. And in that, it will be completely successful.
All in all, Fifty Pence is worth your 13 minutes. And it’s worth its auteur getting a film deal. When that happens, and it will, Kolelas needs to wear less hats – especially, the screenwriter’s.