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Friday, April 10, 2015

Short Film "Leaving" and the Ones Left Behind Offer Uneasy Answers to Tough Questions

"LEAVING" (2014)
Genre:  Drama/Fantasy
Length- 9:52
Company: The Majors Productions
Website: Official

Emily Hemming (Molly Ryman) left her family.  Only her husband Paul (Joseph A. Halsey) will see her -- her son, Cristian (Cristian Neenan) won't so much as look at her, and her daughter Sarah (Noelle Yatauro) won't talk to her.

And then there's Bertrand (Sal Rendino), the therapist she's seeing.  He tries to talk her through this tough period, but there's more to it than how it looks, and if her family is ever going to move on past the moment she ceased to be present in their lives, she's going to have to let go just as much as they do.

A MOMENT PASSING

Writer/director Debra Markowitz ("The Last Taxi Driver") has been making a name for herself by finding new life in genre conventions.  "Leaving" is a prime example of that -- it's a meditation on the nature of grief and what it means to die, from both the perspective of those that are gone and their family members.

While an intriguing concept, the tone of the film is one note and there's not much for our characters to do, which means the running time inevitably outlasts the strength of the film's message.  

A GLIMPSE OF HEAVEN

Fortunately, then, that Markowitz has, for the most part, retained her crew from "The Last Taxi Driver".  As a result, the film is professionally shot from beginning to the end, but this time the images on display are for more striking.  A good chunk of the praise has to go toward the Director of Photography, Marc Riou -- he was present on "The Last Taxi Driver", but here he is really given free reign to help realize Markowitz's visions of Heaven and the beauty of nature.  I really loved the shots of the sea, and of Halsey on the dock.

It doesn't hurt that the film's acting is spot on, and none of the characters descend into nervous breakdowns or tearful exchanges -- a smart move on Markowitz's part because it grounds the story in a more realistic place.

If you're in the mood for a thoughtful short film about life, death, love and memory, then you'll love "Leaving".

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 3.5 / 5.  Markowitz's script is smart and tugs at the heart strings in a realistic and intimate way.  The characters don't have enough to do though -- too much of the story is "I know what to do, but I'm not going to."  
Directing: 4 / 5.  I loved the fact that every shot was well composed and that the power of nature was smartly harnessed -- conveying Heaven without any cheesy shots of angels perching on fluffy clouds.
Editing: 3 / 5.  The momentum of the story noticeably drags a little in the middle, and I can't help but wonder if the story would have flowed better had a little more been cut.
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.  Stephanie Zuccaro provides a touching score.  A sweet acoustic pop song by Sofia Nicole, "Look Around" is utilized in the end credits.  It fits "Leaving" so perfectly that I can't think of the movie without that song.
Acting: 4 / 5.  Ryman capably leads the cast with a performance that feels almost uncomfortably real.  Halsey is authentic and infinitely likeable as Paul.  Neenan and Yatauro are young but they do what is required of them.  Rendino does what he can with what he's given, but, similar to his role in "Junkie Heaven", (where he acted opposite Halsey) he doesn't have as much a character to work with as a stereotype, in this case that of the professional therapist.

Final Grade: 3.7 / 5.

Don't forget to check out "Leaving", which is currently playing in festivals, and follow writer/director Debra Markowitz on Facebook!

As soon as "Leaving" is released online, you can bet you'll find the link 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!