An expectant father (Bryan Veronneau) suffers from a profound fear of the unknown, possibly exacerbated by sleep deprivation. His thoughts turn to dark places as he desperately tries to find reason in the chaotic tatters of his emotional state.
Tonally reminiscent to Brad Anderson’s The Machinist by way of Cormac McCarthy, The Guard opens with a shocking potency that diffuses into malignant unease and concludes with fraught tension. The subject matter alone holds DNA distinctly present in the likes of Rosemary’s Baby, Eraserhead and The Amityville Horror as the primal, protective instinct of a parent is warped and subverted.
This is a particularly male driven story and channels this character’s fears through a father’s perspective. At its core, The Guard is about protection, and the terror of not being able to fulfil that function.
Veronneau’s turn as the titular guard is a considerable one. His portrayal of a man with a fractured mind is similar to that of Guy Pearce in Memento, only with a melancholy that consumes every frame he appears in. Additionally, there are a couple of visual cues that, while not exactly subtle, do tether a thematic consistency and reinforce the desperation and loneliness faced by the character.
Without wishing to give anything away, the symbolism utilised in the opening scene has a Metal/ Music Video quality about it but that’s not meant as a disparaging remark, merely that the stylistic visual storytelling is ruthlessly effective.
Making an indelible mark in a short feature format is not an easy challenge, but here, writer/ director Mark Battle delivers an engaging thriller that challenges emotionally, with a central theme that I was truly invested in. Battle’s previous work, Here Lies Joe boasted a similarly understated, yet powerful performance and an unflinching fragility to his male characters. I’m keen to see where this filmmaker takes us next.
The Guard will be released in 2018.
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