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Monday, February 8, 2016

When Tears May Come: Eduardo Michel Piza's "A Christmas Wish" Examines Family & Divorce Through the Eyes of a Child

"A CHRISTMAS WISH" (2015)
Genre: Drama
Length- 15:31
Company:  N/A

Little Michael (Jentzen Ramirez) attempts to play matchmaker for his separated mom (Lisa Roumain) and dad (Matt Back), but instead of reuniting his family, he enrages his dad.  Confused and feeling hopeless, he runs away, and --

I don't want to spoil it, but suffice it to say that navigating the tricky labyrinth of an adult relationship isn't easy, particularly for a child who's pretty lost himself . . .

A DIRECTOR'S SHOW

"A Christmas Wish" is a short film written and directed by Eduardo Michel Piza with the assistance of cinematographer John Rosario, and I think the strength of the lighting and the visuals will be the first thing you will notice when you watch this picture.

Clearly, Piza knows the language of cinema is visual expression, and he harnesses it very well here because his style is mature and assured, with smooth camera movement.  He's got a good handle on timing without letting a scene run too long, but letting it hang in the air for effect before allowing a transition to move on to the next shot.

It's really an impressive achievement, particularly considering some of the exterior shots we have -- there's a considerably usage of shadows and blurring, and a depth of field you simply don't see in every short film being produced today.  It helps take the screenplay to a whole other level.
And speaking of the screenplay . . .

IT'S NOT YOUR PLACE

The script tells a story that is profoundly sad -- a realistic drama about a family rocked by divorce and a child struggling to make sense of it all and failing miserably.  Throughout, the mother and father make it clear that the child is a member of this family unit, and yet he has no say in whether it stays together or it shatters into pieces.

It's an image that many, many people can relate to and a very honest one.  Childhood is one of the most powerless periods of our lives, which I think is also why it is one of the most painful for many of us, as well.  We have to suffer, and we have no choice but to suffer.

And suffer we do.  To complain about it, or to suggest that it ought to be otherwise, is simply not our place.

FINALE

So there's a considerable depth to the screenplay, and the actors are all up to the task of bringing it into reality.  The only problem is that the film doesn't end so much as it stops -- the big climax of the picture should be the confrontation the mother mentions, but we never get to see it.

I think the intention is to embrace ambiguity, but for this reviewer anyway it went too far in that direction.  After the dramatic intensity of the rest of the short, I needed to see what happened.

But just by virtue of my saying that tells you that this short film is special, and that you really need to check it out.  It's got good performances, directed well, the pacing's on, and it leaves you wanting more.

That's a pretty darn good review right there.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 3.5  / 5.  A really good script, but the ending just pulls the rug out and all of a sudden we're done.  I wanted more, I wanted a conclusion!
Directing: 4 / 5.  Very good show by Piza with solid lighting and imagery support from Rosario.
Editing: 4 / 5.  The film has vivid colors courtesy of editor/colorist Aashish Mayur Shah, and not only that but the pacing is perfect.
Sound/Music: 5 / 5.  The score here by Juan Carlos Enriquez is really something to behold.  It's beautiful, heartfelt and fully realized music performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra as conducted by Adam Klemens.  Now that's something we don't often see here at Forest City Short Film Review!  On top of that, the sound design, also by editor/colorist Shah, is top notch and all the dialogue is professionally recorded.
Acting: 3.5 / 5.  Solid performances for the most part, with particular praise going to Ramirez and Roumain.  Matt Back has a tendency to look surprised with every line.  Not a bad performance necessarily, but could've been better.

Final Grade: 4 / 5.

Don't forget to check out "A Christmas Wish" when it completes its festival circuit and follow the creators on Facebook!



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!