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Monday, April 20, 2015

Ralph Suarez's Beautifully Shot "Halina" a Must See Sci-Fi Short

"HALINA" (2015)
Genre: Sci-Fi/Drama
Length- 31:16
Company: Warm Milk Productions
Website: Official

It's tough out there for the unemployed -- anyone will tell you.  So when Mischa (Lilly Wilton) finally scores an interview for a mysterious job, she's willing to look the other way when it turns out said job is to babysit an artificial intelligence experiment in synthetic human skin -- a real walking and talking cyborg completely indistinguishable from so-called "normal" human life forms.

As if that weren't weird enough, the robot, named Halina (Hannah Jane McMurray), was created to simulate the deceased wife of wealthy benefactor Thomas Crane (William Otterson).  She's identical to her namesake in every way, even retaining many of the human version's memories.

That's creepy enough, right?  Well, something in the way Mischa's boss, Ms. Avery (Patricia O'Neil) acts says something is not right.  And then there's the mystery of what really happened to Thomas Crane's wife . . .

OVER YOUR HEAD

There are times running this blog that I get really, really excited about a short film because it is just so well done, so professionally produced and so well written that I can't help but get gushy about it.  "Halina" is one of those times.

Writer/director Ralph Suarez weaves a complex story, and the thirty minute running time is completely warranted.  It's unfortunate that this film's length excludes it from many film festivals, and a half hour can scare potential viewers away, but in this one instance I insist you put aside any worry because if you give "Halina" a chance when it hits the Internet, you won't be disappointed.

"Halina" could easily be screened in front of any major Hollywood production, and there'd be no noticeable difference in production quality.  It's a beautiful film, featuring some really incredible locations, including the Oheka Castle Historic Hotel in Long Island, New York.  Just witnessing this sprawling estate takes us above and beyond what we see in most shorts.

TWISTING, TURNING . . . 

I don't want to say too much about the plot, but suffice it to say I was genuinely engaged in the story, and I wanted to know more, and more, and more.  It's a mystery that only deepens the longer you watch, and Wilton is irresistable as a leading lady.  Mischa is a very sympathetic character, and her eccentricities only make her more interesting.  It's her life, and its strange parallels to that of the robotic Halina, that give the unfolding events considerable weight.

"Halina" is Forest City Short Film Review's first MUST SEE SHORT of 2015, and frankly it's also one of the finest short films I have ever seen.  Don't miss it or let the long running time scare you.

You'll thank me later.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 4.5 / 5.  Suarez's script is witty, funny, grave and emotional.  Mischa is a great character, and I loved Ms. Avery's arc.  The final confrontation was resolved too easily for my liking, but that's a minor complaint.
Directing: 4 / 5.  Suarez's direction is slow and confident.  A big chunk of the story is Mischa and Halina chatting, but he keeps the action onscreen appealing to the eye.  That being said, there's only so much you can do with static dialogue.  The Director of Photography, Michael LaVoie, also deserves a shout out here -- he creates some gorgeous shots of not only Oheka Castle but of the interior locations, as well.
Editing: 5 / 5.  Suarez also edited the film with help from LaVoie on color correction.  The film looks as good as any feature with a big budget and the pacing is perfect.
Sound/Music: 4.5 / 5.  The sound design was not particularly demanding, but the recording of the sound is solid and I didn't notice any moments when volumes fluctuated or lines were dubbed.  On the music side, Steve Goldstein created a nice sonic atmosphere with his score, which utilized classical guitar, a choice I applaud.  The end credit song is particularly beautiful, and I hope there's an MP3 download of it I can get because I loved it.  Additional music is provided by an indie alternative band named The Influencers -- "Overview Effect" and "Morning".  Their music matches the introspective mood of the film.
Acting: 3.5 / 5.  Wilton feels a little anxious at the beginning of the film, but after a few minutes her performance gets reeled back a little and she does a splendid job, very worthy of any leading actress.  O'Neil was monotone for pretty much the entire film until the ending, when her character breaks down and honestly, she could win an award for that moment.  Otterson is sympathetic and cold -- somehow, he manages to pull off both simultaneously.  There are a few side characters as well, including Mischa's wayward boyfriend, played by Tyler McElroy.  He does OK with what he's given.

Final Grade: 4.3 / 5.  

Don't forget to check out "Halina" when it comes out (I will post the link here as soon as it does), follow the film's progress on Facebook and watch the official trailer below!






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!