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Monday, February 22, 2016

Boy Hurts Girl: Love Goes Wrong In Powerful "Know the Signs"

"KNOW THE SIGNS" (2015)
Genre: Drama
Length- 41:12
Company:  The Make A Movie Society, LLC

Felicia (Eden Shultz) and Kevin (Harrison Flanders) have a tumultuous relationship -- but not the super passionate, on-again off-again teenie bopper romance popularized by the Hollywood screens.  No, this is more like Boy Meets Girl, Boy Beats Girl Into a Bloody Pulp sort of a relationship . . . and rather than take her parents' advice, she agrees to meet with him one last time, to provide "closure" for both of them, because she's going to leave him.  Or maybe she won't.  She's not entirely sold on that last part yet.

See, the thing is, Felicia's dad, Jack (Scot Smith) used to beat up her mother, Diane (Elizabeth Corbett) right in front of her.  So how can she take anything Diane says seriously?

All in all, she's a confused young woman, and Kevin doesn't much care what she wants . . .

FIRST FEW THOUGHTS

"Know the Signs" is a short film written, produced and directed by Antonio R. Cannady, and it's a labor of love through and through clocking in at a little over forty minutes in length.  What we have here is a film that's approaching feature length, which normally I would argue against, because its excessive length doesn't usually work for the sort of online format that short films tend to be intended for.

And there are some areas where we could definitely trim this film down, but by and large the story is exposing the effects of domestic violence on several generations of two separate families, so a lot of the length is actually warranted.  I'd say we could get away with cutting maybe ten minutes, mostly teen angst sort of stuff, abbreviating some of the arguments so it's tighter in some spots.

But overall, I have to hand it to Cannady and editor Matthew Kaiser -- this film unfolds pretty well despite its epic length.

THE BRUTALITY OF THE REAL

Domestic violence is not a funny topic.  It's not cute, it's not entertaining.  In real life, it's stomach churning.  It's miserable.  It's heartbreaking.

"Know the Signs" knows this and delivers the brutality of the real world hard.  The finale felt a little cliche and minimized the apparently sorrowful closing moments, but I get why they did it, and you will, too.

While it can feel a little soapboxy and the abusers become caricatures at times, Cannady's film is an affecting and overall relentlessly dark depiction of the spiderweb of violence, obsessive love and hate.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 3.5 / 5.  Cannady also wrote the script, and he constructs a fairly complicated setup of characters, social status, and hope all dimmed by domestic abuse.  Ultimately it all ends up happening pretty much as you expect it to, but that doesn't mean it's not effective.  One final thought: we never get to see the good side of Kevin: what about him made Felicia fall in love with him to begin with?  As it is, he comes off as a psychotic druggie caricature -- why on earth did this "good girl" get involved with him in the first place?
Directing: 3 / 5.  A well made film from start to finish, but nothing sticks out in my mind except for the inspired tracking shot through Kevin's house at the end.
Editing: 4 / 5.  Overly long, but still well put together and interestingly enough, not boring in spite of the fact that you could definitely take out bits here and there to tighten it up.  The color correction is beautiful.
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.  Solid score by Leo Daniel Kirkpatrick and songs provided by Mulligans Project, Stunna & Fusion and Karma.
Acting: 3 / 5.  A pretty mixed bag here, but good performances overall.  Flanders does the best he can, but he's given an off-the-wall character to play who doesn't make much sense, even to himself, so you can't blame him.  Scot Smith is probably the most off, especially in his violent scenes.  He just doesn't come off as threatening.  Shultz and Corbett are the most credible in their roles, always feeling like their characters and not like actors.

Final Grade:  3.5 / 5.

Don't forget to check out "Know the Signs" at the official websitefollow the creators on Facebook!

I know this blog is about movies and having fun and all that, but domestic violence is a very serious situation.  Please take a moment to read the following below:

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If you or someone you know is being abused, please visit The National Domestic Violence Hotline's website or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

It's important to get help NOW -- everyone on this planet deserves a life in which they can live each and every single day without someone hurting them verbally or physically.



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!