Rob’s 7-Word Review of Dark Waters

Plot drips too slowly, belying shocking subject.

Rob Reviews: The Sins of the Father

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.

Rob Reviews Realizations. Again.

The newly-formed Screaming Beaver Productions has remounted the 2018 Island Fringe Festival hit, Realizations, written by Kandace Hagen, and once again directed by Rory Starkman. You can read my review of that production here.

I saw the second of five performances scheduled for this remount, playing at, and presented by, The Guild. The final three performances take place this coming Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and I whole-heartedly recommend you go see this challenging, affecting, and effective play.

Many of the plethora of plaudits and few issues I wrote about of the original production still stand. The script is tight, smart and engaging. The male characters, except Marcus, are still too much used simply as unredeeming plot devices and are not fleshed-out in any interesting way. (This may be on purpose, and if so, fine. But I think it’s a mistake to ignore them as actual, dimensional, characters) The acting, for the most part, is quite good, but perhaps not quite as crisp overall as in the original production. (It is hard not to compare the two productions and that production was magic) As a play, it moves along at a great pace and easily holds one’s attention. But the real triumph, in a play full of triumphant elements, is the use of the space and set pieces.

The entire width of The Guild stage is used quite effectively. (although when sitting on the theatre-entrance side of the audience, it was a bit hard to hear what was being said in the bedroom set, all the way across the room. But this is a matter of actor vocal projection, perhaps, and only troublesome at the very top of the play) The main part of the stage was empty, except for a dozen or so two-foot by two-foot (I’m guessing) black boxes. They were constantly being moved and arranged and manipulated by the entire cast between scenes, to create a multitude of different locations and atmospheres. It was no doubt a challenge of choreography, but very much worth it as it proved very, very effective. Only a couple of times did I find it a little bit intrusive to the action happening elsewhere on stage, and maybe a couple more where I wondered what was the point of that last boxy beehive of commotion.

This play deserves to play to full houses. As with the original production (which did play to full, albeit smaller, houses), I wonder if its publicity makes people trepidatious about wanting to see it. Frankly, the publicity for the show isn’t very inviting, and reads more like a university thesis dissertation topic. I understand the desire to warn and prepare people for what they are getting into if they see it, but you also want seats filled. There is undeniable humanity and heart and passion breathed into every moment of this play, but none of that warmth is evident in the publicity. It’d be a shame if people didn’t see it because they were wary of how it is promoted.

The long and the short of it is, despite any of my petty criticisms, Realizations is really good, and everyone involved should be so very proud of this production. It is so very much worth your time, so please go see it, and support locally-created, independent theatre.