PEI filmmaker Ryan McCarvill, under the production banner of Retrospective Pictures, has released his short film, The Sins of the Father, on YouTube, and I’m here to review it.
A quick non-spoiler synopsis of the film: Cassidy (Peter Murphy), the head of a mob-like “family” requests that his long-time henchman Frenchie (Gordon Cobb) deal with some unpleasant business involving The Kid (Ryan McCarvill), a troublesome young up-and-coming apprentice henchman. The crux of the story is Frenchie having to choose between loyalty to father-figure Cassidy, and his own paternal-like emotional connection to The Kid. Hence, The Sins of The Father.
As a film, it looks pretty darn good, with cinematography that helps to capture a mood of coldness and disconnect. It sounds quite good, too, with an effectively somber original score by Devon Ross, and sound design and mixing by Adam Gallant. And its direction and editing both succeed in moving the story along, creating a growing sense of danger and inevitability.
The acting is pretty good, despite being a bit one-note. I put that down to a lack of depth in the script rather than talent of actors. Peter Murphy is quietly menacing as the boss, his low-hum of a voice implying the weariness of a long history of living with being in charge of dangerous people. A great example of less-is-more sometimes when it comes to menace. Gordon Cobb, as the older thug, has some great moments, the best I’ve seen him, at times. I particularly enjoy many of his non-speaking moments, where he is effective at conveying his inner-thoughts through a fleeting look. Some real nice eye acting. Sometimes, his acting gets a bit bigger or theatrical than the mood of the short perhaps requires, but those moments are few and short. Ryan McCarvill adeptly plays the brooding young thug. He has a natural charm that draws your eye to him every time he’s on screen, and he well-conveys the frustrating sophomoric naivety of a young man who thinks he knows everything. And Jeremy Davies does everything required of him as Tucker, the persona muta whose role is to silently stand behind Cassidy and threaten violence.
And finally we come to the role of AnnaLee (Eden McFadden), the Kid’s girlfriend, and one of the ladies of Cassidy’s stable. McFadden is good in her performance, but she doesn’t have much to do, admittedly, as her’s is not so much a character as a device to propel the plot. That is entirely a complaint with the script and not the actor.
With so much positive to speak of this film, it is, unfortunately, ultimately let down somewhat by the script. As noted above, the lone female character does not exist except as an object over which the men can act and react. That’s rather disappointing, and, honestly, boring. Another aspect of the script that fails to succeed, for me, is that it doesn’t attempt (or, doesn’t succeed) to create a sense of place. This could be the town of Anyplace, Anywhere. That could be fine in itself, if that was important to the themes and purpose of the piece. But I don’t see that being a valid reason here. As a result, it ends up suffering somewhat of being generic men in a generic place, and therefore, as a viewer, it’s hard to connect to them, or the environment around them. There is no anchor for a viewer to grab onto.
This is a well-made short film, with lots of positives that everyone involved should be proud of. Yet, ultimately, it seems cool for cool’s sake, follows too closely to the rules of genre, and results in a short that lacks enough of an authentic personality. I would love to see McCarvill’s next project take the brave step of infusing itself with much more of the author’s heart and soul. Subvert the genre and make something that could only be made by you.