I watch enough short film online that I feel entitled to a certain degree of elitism, uncovering the hidden gems, blah blah, but flipping through my list of films to review, its seems silly to hold the popularity of this film against it. I’m sure you guys would rather me just review the films I like the best rather than force feeding y’all some esoteric b.s, 1.8 million YouTube views be damned. And yes, I liked this one a lot. Besides I found this film rather late in the game myself, so for posterity’s sake and the benefit of all of you who haven’t encountered this short film, this weeks entry is Signs.
Two adjectives let you know what to expect. Cute and sweet. It doesn’t start that way though. Jason is struggling with the stereotypical alienation of a young office man new to the big city. Work is boring, the loneliness is heart-breaking, and the false expectation of family and friends who think you’re living it up to the max is soul-crushing. But, through the window and into the office across the street, Jason spots and draws the attention of the girl who might change all that.
Signs is a classic boy meets girl in which the central conceit is not too contrived. You couldn’t make a feature based off it, but it is the perfect size for a short. If you read my reviews, you understand that I am a big fan of scripts and filmmakers that understand the limitations of the form and play to its strengths. Signs takes that to heart, with a spare script in which every piece has resonance. Many of the introductory moments that inform our impression of Jason as depressed, the photocopying at the office for instance, are inverted later on in a funny way to establish his renewed verve. Routine is presented at first in order to accentuate Jason’s dread of life, the mind-numbing banality of his existence, yet the pacing of the film and its editing, morph his morning routine into narrative development. The long-drawn out takes initially become progressively quicker to signify Jason’s energy and excitement, building to a fevered pace right before the moment he is let down at the end of act 2.
Nick Russel does a really laudable job as Jason, playing the role with the kind of earnest goofiness that has earned Hugh Grant millions of dollars. The role on both ends, the sad sack and the nervous comedy are both very easy to overplay, but he does not. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of him in the future.
Signs is also in keeping with my interest in corporate sponsorship. The film was part of the Schweppes Online Film Festival, an ad campaign devised by Publicis Mojo which commisioned a handful of films. I found Signs by accident, I was was thinkng of doing a writeup on Magnifique which you can view at the above link. Magnifique is a well-done, but ultimately one-note comedy about a man with an amazing member. It was pleasing to watch in a Wedding Crashers sort of way plus it sported some nice mod fashion and design. If you’d like to check out more of the Schweppes films I’d recommend that one, and would say to stay away from Jet Black, a moody piece about a hit man, that is all misplaced affect, with no substance.
Hope you enjoy Signs, I’m going to go back to trying my best to find obscure films. We’ve been a little slow here at SotW of late, so look forward to a bunch of Short of the Moments soon to make up for it!