From the nail salon to the subway, a young woman goes about the mundanity of her day up until a certain medical appointment. Placing its audience into its main character’s headspace, on a day when she has to make an unusual decision, Colleen Dodge’s Polished is a moving and compelling watch. With a very simple narrative and a powerful central performance, this is a short that showcases how a protagonist’s emotional journey is all you need to keep an audience engaged and land an impact.
“I hope to show a wider view of what could lead a woman to make this decision”
When we asked Dodge about the inspiration behind Polished, it came as no surprise that in the current political climate, the state of women’s rights over their own bodies was on her mind. Abortions can unfortunately still be a tough subject to tackle in film, which is why they often tend to be depicted in much more dramatic ways than the approach Dodge chose. “By broadening the narrations seen on-screen about abortions, I hope to show a wider view of what could lead a woman to make this decision and seek proper care”, she explains.
This slice of life approach is what immediately struck me, the film only focuses on the main character and her state of mind, instead of adding the outside world and society to the mix. Her decision has been made, and Polished isn’t about the why. However, even when having an abortion is logistically easy, it is nonetheless still an emotional process. Opting to keep her story tight, Dodge adds no fluff to her narrative and instead captivates her audience by bringing her character’s vulnerabilities to the screen through a very subtle screenplay.
There is something very sensory and immersive about the film since it is an emotional journey, and Dodge avoids superfluous exposition, opting instead to instantly submerge her audience in the main character’s life. Through the sound mix, the editing and the cinematography, we understand enough to feel that she is in a certain predicament and that life won’t pause until it’s resolved. We easily follow her train of thought by being trapped in whatever it is she is paying attention to or being distracted by, while the quick cuts get the day going. It does not take long to piece together that said distractions are actually coping mechanisms, and that ultimately, no matter what, this is a very hard day for her. This undramatic but deeply genuine and emotional depiction of the story makes it impossible not to empathize with her.
Just like in any film where the dialogue is not the driving force, the performances bring it together and Jane Stiles is nothing short of remarkable. She navigates her character’s changing mood over the course of the day with a striking authenticity, down to the last scene where her performance utterly encapsulates the vulnerabilities of this young woman.
With many credits as a production designer, Polished is Dodge’s directorial debut. She is currently writing her next short film, hoping to eventually develop it into a feature and is also working on a concept for a short art film titled Booty Window, which she describes as “an ode to the women of New York City”.