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Monday, June 3, 2013

Solid Direction and Arresting Imagery Make "Cycle" A Touching Ride

"CYCLE"  (2013)
Length: 7:06
Company: Psycho Projections
Website: Facebook Page


A BOY AND HIS BICYCLE

Nostalgia and attachment . . . these two things are the source of much anxiety and yearning for every human being on the planet.   Poor Kochu (Ambhu PY) is struggling with that tricky time in every boy's life, the transition from childhood to adulthood.  He's looking at going away to school, trading his bicycle for a car, his dreams for a job, and play for work. 

His most prized possession as a boy was his bike, but now it's time to let go of his childish things and embrace the next phase of his life, and that means getting rid of the bike.

But he doesn't want to sell it.  He wants his beloved bike to go to a good home.

From a rather . . . well . . . childish premise comes a surprisingly touching drama from Psycho Projections and Indian filmmaker team Amal V. Aleyas and Elvin Raj.  It's won awards around the world, including the Crossroads Short Film Festival, Manorama Yuva Campus Short Film Fest and Sanskriti Short Film Festival.

Let's take a closer look.

PRESENTATION IS EVERYTHING

One thing that differentiates "Cycle" from about 95% of all other short films out there is its stellar, professional production values.  The picture is crystal clear and the music provided by Ajith Mangatoor and Dileep Kumar adds subtlety to the images on screen.  The visuals presented by Aleyas and Raj are at times stunning in their simplicity. 

I live in the USA, so the film looks so beautiful and exotic.  It helps me get the feeling that I'm traveling somewhere when I watch, rather than just sitting my butt in a chair and disappearing in a story for a while.   This instantly adds the impression of production value to an otherwise low budget endeavor.

The dialogue in the film is subtitled in English, and while some of the translations aren't quite authentic, the actors seem to be delivering their lines with honesty.  None of the performances are spectacular, but it all works.

ACCEPTING WHAT IS . . .

We can't help but identify with Kochu -- we've all been there.  Don't you remember that toy or book or article of clothing you dearly wish you'd kept rather than getting rid of it? 

The smallest, most insignificant things can sometimes hold the strongest memories, and memories are what "Cycle" is all about. 

The filmmakers utilize a sort of hyper-vivid color scheme for Kochu's memories of childhood, which I enjoyed, and which thankfully saves the film. 

Besides, isn't that how it really is in real life?  We have our beautiful memories, and they are more real than real, and we spend the rest of our lives chasing that feeling.  They influence everything we are and everything we have the capacity to be.

There's not much in the way of plot.  It's a fairly standard story progression -- Kochu doesn't want to get rid of the bike, but due to pressure from society, he knows that he must if he's ever to gain respect as a grown man. 

This story could have veered off into revolutionary territory -- that is, Kochu could resist and try to create a new change in the world he perceives.  The fact that he doesn't, and chooses to find the right person to receive his beloved bike speaks volumes.  It's a little bit of nuance thrown in for a character who is otherwise one dimensional.

. . .AND WHAT ISN'T

The biggest issue I have with "Cycle" is that the story is just too simple.  There are no twists, and while some of the imagery put on screen is beautiful and exciting, the storyline comes across a little boring. 

The film is barely over seven minutes in length, yet the first forty four seconds of the film are silence, with a black screen and white credits.   The last thirty seconds of the film are more credits.  Over one minute of time spent on black screens and credits is damaging to a short film of any length.  We need to get into the story immediately or viewers will tune out.

CONCLUSION

If people did see all the credits and click out of the film, that'd be a shame.  "Cycle" is a touching coming-of-age drama that is enjoyable and professionally shot.  Psycho Projections did a good job with this film, and I'm sure they'll have even better films in the future.

Overall Scores:

Writing: 2 / 5.  There is not a lot going on here and the story pretty much tells itself as soon as you know what's going on.  No twists, no turns -- just a fairly realistic slice of life.
Directing: 3.5 / 5.  If it wasn't for the solid direction and professional production values, "Cycle" would be forgettable.  As it is, the filmmakers put together enough quality imagery to marry to the screenplay to make it all worthwhile.
Editing: 4 / 5.  The pacing is a little slow, but the transitions between scenes are fluid and no one scene runs too long. 
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.  Great audio quality here, and a solid soundtrack that backs up the on screen activities.
Acting: 3.5 / 5.  Everybody involved seems to be playing their characters respectfully, and that works well enough to make the world of "Cycle" believable.

Final Grade: 3.4.  Thanks to a good show put on by everyone involved, "Cycle" rises above the sum of its parts to a pretty solid drama.  It's an old, old story, and you know where it's going, but it's based on something all human beings deal with in their lives, and it feels authentic enough to prod your emotions enough for a smile.

To watch the full length film, click here!  Don't forget to also get in touch with Psycho Projections, check out their official Facebook page here!



Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!