By Dan Barnes.
In many ways, it’s much tougher for a short film to achieve its emotional goal than that of a feature film. The director has just a few short minutes to evoke the desired mood within their audience. There’s no time for character development, and very little room for dialogue, so more often than not the trick is to keep it as simple as possible, and this is where Chad Hamilton’s latest short, ‘Not Yet’, truly succeeds.
The film tells the story of a husband bringing his sick wife to the park to cheer her up. It’s no more complicated than that, which makes it all the more impressive that the story is able to evoke so many emotions in its mere 9 minute run-time. This is because we as an audience have been presented with a thoroughly relatable story that we can all understand and sympathise with, simple as it may be.
The most notable element of the film is its lack of dialogue. No real words are spoken by anyone. The closest it comes is with the occasional gasp or laughter, but the film primarily relies on diegetic sound. This is a terrific stylistic choice, stripping the story down to its bare bones, and it’s delivered with superb sound design from Luftar Von Rama.
There is also an exceptional score by Christopher Sisco. Who needs dialogue when you have music that is more than capable of telling a story all on its own? The score perfectly captures the ever-changing mood within the narrative, drifting from happy to heart-breaking with each passing moment, the highlight being an uplifting piano piece in the second act.
While the film has its simplicities, it’d be easy to turn a blind eye to the little details within it that really make it work. Chad Hamilton’s direction is very open, despite the limited location, creating a bright and freeing atmosphere, while he makes use of close-ups for the story’s more intimate moments, and uses a bright and vibrant colour palette to insinuate his positive message.
He wants to tell a joyous story, but never forgets the emotion at the heart of it. He finds a perfect balance, and there are some moments that really hit the viewer like a ton of bricks, including a scene in which the husband spots an old man sitting on his own, and contemplates his future. The film’s final shot is also extremely powerful.
Ultimately, this is a story about escaping, even if just for a moment. It’s a story about a husband who just wants to make his wife smile, and that feeling extends itself to the audience. It’s really very impressive how many emotions one story can express in such a short run-time.
Chad Hamilton (who also cameos in the film) won the Best Director award at Freedom Shorts XVI, and it’s not hard to see why, as this is a film that works solely due to the smart creative decisions he’s made. The story is communicated purely through visuals, alongside a truly brilliant score, and evokes more emotion than many script-heavy feature-length productions are able to achieve.
It’s short but sweet, simple but effective, and manages to be tragic and uplifting all at the same time. It’s a true masterclass in short filmmaking.
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