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Thursday, 7 May 2015

Stolen Afternoon (2014)

Director: Aaron Kes
Stars: Mae Broeske, Cord Nash Skvarek, T J Houle and Aaron Kes
This film was an official selection at the Phoenix Film Festival in 2015. Here's an index to my reviews of 2015 films.
This film was an official selection at Filmstock 2014. Here's an index to my reviews of all 2014 films.
Given that the Home Grown Shorts set at this year's Phoenix Film Festival was packed full with impactful dramas that ran the gamut of homelessness, racism, terrorism, suicide, debt, addiction, abuse, revenge, murder and a runaway child, it might surprise that it was the two comedies that got the most reaction in a verbal way from the audience. Logan Must Make Star Wars clearly benefitted from being a break in this apparently relentless assault late on in the set, but Stolen Afternoon was second up and its predecessor, Grace of a Stranger, was calm and polite with its impact. Yet it played wonderfully and sold huge. I heard an 'It's funny!' from a young kid way down at the front and an 'Oh my God!' and a 'That's amazing!' from the folk sitting next to me. All those were during the film; there were a bunch more during the credits. It could be seen as an even greater accomplishment because director Aaron Kes made this in a mere 48 hours for the A3F film challenge in 2014, where it won the Audience Favourite.

It's a pretty simple story, as they go. T J Houle, Kes's partner-in-crime at the rival local film challenge, IFP Phoenix, plays the unnamed mother of an unnamed baby daughter. She's clearly highly capable but the phone rings with news that Carla has had a relationship crisis and needs to be picked up from the side of a road. What are friends for? Well, as Carla is the only character in this film to have a name, clearly she's important enough for her to leave her baby daughter behind for a few hours with her similarly unnamed brother, who's staying with them for a while on holiday. The bad news is that the only thing that Brother knows about babies is that his sister has one. He's clearly as prepared for a couple of hours in the smelly company of this cute baby girl as I am for the zombie apocalypse, which is to say not at all. Frankly, we'd call his stunning ineptitude into doubt if Cord Nash Skvarek wasn't so funny at being utterly useless. We don't want to imagine how bad things would have got if only Aaron Kes hadn't shown up to rob them.
And there you have it. What follows is utterly ludicrous, of course, but in the best possible way. We aren't supposed to buy into the situation; we're supposed to buy into how true to life it bizarrely manages to be while still remaining utterly ludicrous. There are hints at further depth here, in both of these men finding help in a strange way, but they're only hints as this aims mostly for the chuckle organs. Each of the four actors is perfectly cast and nails the tone of their characters: the matter of fact Houle, the deadpan Kes, the deer-in-the-headlights Skvarek and, of course, the cute Mae Broeske as the baby who obviously had an absolute blast on the set. At least, she did when she was on camera and that's what matters most to us. I value what Houle and Kes do for IFP Phoenix, but I do wish they'd make more movies. This is a gem, a comedy worthy of repeat viewings and yet it's not even my favourite of the two films Kes has directed. Following my all-time favourite IFP challenge film, La Lucha, was an impossible task, but this is worthy.

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