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Friday 4 October 2013

All I Think of is You (2012)

Director: Shad Clark
Stars: L Jeffrey Moore, Simone Olsen-Varela, Rowan Brooks, Rolf Saxon and Jeremy Kaller
This film was an official selection at the 9th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Phoenix in 2013. Here's an index to my reviews of 2013 films.
We might be excused for thinking that the pained and bloodied gentleman dying on a gurney as this film begins is too busy to think about anything. Either that or he's seeing his entire life flash before his eyes; that's the cliché, right? Well, every movie has a title for a reason and we find out about this one soon enough. This man is Nate and he's dead by the time we see that title. What he really thinks of as he dies is his wife, Claire. In fact he tells her that in the next scene when he rings her up. Yes, that's the chronological order of events, because this is a science fiction short and we're here to watch the results of technological advancement. Scientists, led by a Tim Curry clone and notably including Nate himself, are working on what they call reconstructions through serial sectioning microscopy but we're more likely to call mind uploads. And, as he starts to question what they're doing, he finds himself in a fatal car accident and his mind uploaded into a different body. Now he's Subject 0001.

There are a number of ironies and contrasts here, as this story aims to cover a lot of ground in a mere eight minutes. Clearly it's a shock for Claire to receive a phone call from her dead husband but that's only the first. When he shows up at their house to surprise her when she gets home, she discovers an equally obvious change: he's not a thin white guy any more, he's a chubby black man, who had died of a pulmonary embolism at only 36. Nate died at a particularly convenient time for his team's debut reconstruction and the consequences of that soon test him as much as they do his wife. The grandest irony was shared by a few sci-fi shorts at this year's International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival, most obviously Flashback: that the man who makes something technologically possible is the only one not to benefit from it. In a flashback, Nate explains to Claire that it's her that drives him; 'All day at work, all I think of is you,' he tells her. That scene resonates throughout the rest of the film.

This is a good story and writer/director Shad Clark takes it exactly where it needs to go, but sadly it feels far too crammed into this short a running time. One of the most common comments I hear after watching festival short sets is that people want to see good shorts expanded to feature length. It's rarely appropriate, because most shorts have stories to fit their running time, but this one is a notable exception: it absolutely would benefit from an expansion to feature length because it's far from a one idea piece; many of the ideas here deserve more attention that only more time can allow. I certainly wanted more background about the scientists, Nate's conflicts and the convenient timing of his death; I wanted a lot more about Claire and her reactions to the events that unfold; and I wanted more about the shells being inhabited by orphaned minds, a darker aspect to donating your body to science. The circles we see here are fascinating, but there should be circles in the circles too.

While we would benefit from such an expansion, each of the actors would benefit even more. The film as it stands doesn't give them much opportunity, as they all play second fiddle to the script. They do good work but unfortunately they each discover that their wings are clipped as soon as they try to fly. What's more, I have a feeling that some of the depth they try to explore goes beyond the script as it exists here. I wonder if Clark has a wider story written and whether his actors got to see it before they shot this short. With the benefit of hindsight, I believe that actors like Simone Olsen-Varela, who plays Claire, are reacting to material that would logically show up in a longer picture but isn't actually in this one. Perhaps its a whole new irony that in writing a story about technology that can cheat the ultimate limit of death, the film's biggest flaw is that it can't cheat the inherent limit of its running time, a sort of death equivalent for a filmed piece of fiction. Let's hope Clark can achieve that with a feature.

All I Think of is You can be watched for free at YouTube or at the film's website.

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