At least for me personally, “salesmen” evoke an inherent sense of pathos. The cheesy veneer—the lies, the fake smiles, the pandering: there’s a poignancy in how pathetic it all is. As such, I guess it’s not surprising that salesmen—or more specifically, the death of them—has left such a mark on American drama. And, so, today we feature Daniel Zimbler’s Socks & Bonds, the story of a middle-aged sock vendor who needs to score one last big sale. Arthur Miller would be proud.
We’ve featured Zimbler’s work before—his previous short film, Exit, was an eerie, dark tale of a bewitching in an English manor. Both in tone and in setting, Socks & Bonds ostensibly appears to tread very different narrative ground. But, there’s definitely a connection in Zimbler’s work—both Exit and this film feel largely theatrical in nature. I could imagine them being performed on stage just as easily as I see them in front of the lens. Partially, this comes down to the wonderful casting. In Socks & Bonds, Zimbler relies on veteran stage actors Stephen Singer and Alison Fraser to do the heavy lifting.
All the performances are strong, especially as the character of Max does his best to mask his growing desperation. In a sense, Socks & Bonds is a sort of subversion of the American dream—the dark side of capitalism and self-sufficiency. What happens when pulling yourself up by the bootstraps doesn’t yield results? Well, suddenly you find yourself in another man’s kitchen begging him to smell your socks.
It’s a story about these two people, dreamers who are facing down the possibility that their pipe dreams have failed them.
Zimbler, in working with screenwriter Elisabeth Gray, elaborates upon the film’s cinematic goals: “We wanted to tell a story about a relationship that had stalled, about a pair of people who still had hopes of a bigger life for themselves, in spite of past failures and disappointments…It’s a story about these two people, dreamers who are facing down the possibility that their pipe dreams have failed them.
The film isn’t perfect. In terms of pacing, the second half isn’t as strong as the opening portion, and the ending feels like it could have used a final, more dramatic note. But, the film does a tremendous job of making us feel for these two primary characters. They’re not great people, but we care about them, and for a “talky,” slower-paced dramatic short, that’s really the ultimate signifier of success.
If you’re keen to see more work from Daniel Zimbler and Elisabeth Gray, we encourage you to check out their brand new mockumentary web series about Broadway called Understudies. The series has an impressive ensemble cast featuring stars from both the stage and screen.