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Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Next (2013)

Director: Bonnie Sowle
Star: Tyler Schneider
This film was a submission to one of the IFP Phoenix film challenges in 2013. Here's an index to my reviews of 2013 submissions.
I enjoyed Adventure!, Bonnie Sowle's playful contribution to the Beat the Clock challenge this year, but not to the degree that the judges apparently did, as it overachieved with a surprising haul of awards, not only a second place slot after Star Babies, but also wins for best director and best actor. Admittedly, some of the shorts which I'd have rated higher, like Doubting Thomas or The Neighbors, were excluded from competition, but I'd also have put Inflated and Eva's Light ahead of it. However, I strongly felt that Next, Sowle's IFP follow up, shot for the Mystery Box challenge, should have taken home far more than it did, which was a solitary award: a much deserved best actor win for Tyler Schneider. I'd suggest that this was the best picture on show after the clear winner, After the Beep. It kept a lot of the playfulness of Adventure! but told a much stronger story in a much stronger way, with a lot of character and a few touches of genuine comedy gold. It wasn't merely Schneider, it was a team performance.

I liked it from the very first scene, delightfully done up like an overemotional Mexican telenovela. We see it because Noah is watching it with tears in his eyes and a leopardskin blanket over his head. It's surely time for an intervention from Tanner, his roommate, to attempt to get him over the many things that have gone wrong in his life in the last month, even the ones Tanner didn't know about. It's time for a fresh start, so he sends him to a speed dating event his brother is running. Noah goes for it and for a while it turns out roughly as well as you might expect. At least Noah can say 'Next!' whenever he wants to cycle onto the next young lady on his list, which he has to do rather frequently. Sowle, who wrote as well as edited, shot and directed the film, cast it well, providing a host of quirky characters to confound Noah. Korbe Canida was exotically enticing in Adventure! but she has fun being the opposite here, and Ali Bastek is hilarious, utterly wrong and yet somehow strangely magnetic, all without a single word.

The only aspect I didn't like was the camerawork, which was annoyingly just a little shaky throughout, even when the camera was being still. Maybe Sowle needs a better tripod, or maybe someone at Echo Coffee was causing too many people to run one way or another. It's a minor complaint for a picture as full of character as this one and I certainly look forward to watching more of Bonnie Sowle's work. She has quite a lot of it online at YouTube, as she's a current student at Scottsdale Community College, so I'll start to happily work through it. Just downloading a few, I see some familiar names already, not only Tyler Schneider who is so spot on here. Sowle is a busy submitter to IFP and A3F challenges nowadays, so I'm sure you'll see a lot more reviews here at Apocalypse Later. This one deserved much better than it got and, even though it misses out on automatic submission to the Phoenix Film Festival, I hope she'll submit it anyway. In fact, I look forward to seeing it a lot more on the big screen.

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