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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Death With Dignity Touched On In Grounded "Promise Me" From Award Winning Screenplay Writer/Director Kevin Machate

"PROMISE ME" (2015)
Genre: Drama
Length- 8:02
Company: Who's That? Productions

Stella (Gayland Williams) is suffering.  Despite efforts to save her life, a terminal disease is slowly choking the last of her strength from her exhausted body.  It's not a matter of if she will die, it's a matter of when.  

For Stella, her entire life has become a routine of systematic medicinal treatments and working around how her failing body feels at any given moment.  Her only opportunity to exercise even the smallest bit of control is in how she will die -- and rather than the prolonged, agonizing death predicted by her doctors, she has chosen to take medicine which will end her life in a calm and painless way with her son Owen (Craig Nigh) at her side.

But Owen can't accept her decision to just give up, and more than that he can't accept feeding his own mother the medication which will take her life.

LETTING GO

We here at Forest City Short Film Review last heard from Kevin Machate with his funny, satirical stab on celebrity known as "#RIP" (review right here).  He has accumulated a number of awards for his latest script, and the film of that script -- "Promise Me" -- is about as far from that film as one can possibly get -- both in terms of tone and style.

First of all, Machate has grown as both writer and director since then.  "Promise Me" takes incredibly touchy and difficult subject matter and handles it like a seasoned pro.  Several shots could have easily devolved into melodrama and sentimentality, but Machate smartly reels in not only his writing but also his actors, and it's because of that kind of visual and emotional maturity that this film hits home, and hits hard.

NECESSARY CONVERSATIONS 

For those of us who have actually been in these situations -- been with a loved one, for instance, when he or she decided to stop going to chemotherapy and accept death -- it's a painful film to watch, but one that brings up a lot of important questions for what will likely be the next big debate in healthcare: under what conditions would you face death?  Could you decide when it's "time to go"?

It's big questions like these that make "Promise Me" worthy of note, and it's Machate's growing skills behind the camera that makes the film resonate.  

I highly recommend "Promise Me", which is going out to festivals as of this writing.  When it's live on the Internet for any and all to see, I will definitely be adding the link for this one.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing:  3.5 / 5.  The film's running time is barely eight minutes, so we get right into it from the opening shots.  The conflict between Owen and Stella is resolved so easily that it hardly feels like anything really happens.  It is still incredibly affecting, but "Promise Me" comes off as a bit of a vignette more than a standalone movie.  
Directing: 4 / 5.  Cinematographer Andrew Baird helps Machate create a visual palette as good as anything on the big screen.  A great example is that opening shot of the drink in the foreground, with the action blurred out in the background.  What a great way to play with audience expectations!  From a solely directorial standpoint, Machate puts on a mature and confident show that is affecting without being distracting.  Anything flashy would have distracted from the point of the film.
Editing: 4 / 5.  Todd Rodgers' editing does the job and then some.  The pacing of this film is perfect and the coloring looks good.
Sound/Music: 3.5 / 5.  The sound is professionally recorded.  The end credits features Fisher's popular song, "True North", which fit the mood well.
Acting: 4 / 5.  Williams and Nigh provide a center for this film that brings the point home.  Step Rowe and Teagan Jai Boyd fit into their roles as Owen's wife Debbie and daughter Lizzie.   Boyd is particularly good considering her young age.  Judy McMillan is credible for the few lines she's given.

Final Grade: 3.8 / 5.  




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!