The Discontentment of Ed Telfair (Short Film)

22 May

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Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“The Discontentment of Ed Telfair” is yet another brilliant short film from a most unique, inspiring filmmaker named Daniel Campbell. Campbell’s previous short films/festival favorites were “Antiquities” (already reviewed by me) and “The Orderly,” both of which were fiercely inventive in their human (and comic) elements. These films are not only funny but also very memorable. They’re some of my prime examples of excellent short narratives in that they’re very successful in screenwriting, pacing, and even an artistic sense. It’s almost as if Campbell makes the films that he would like to see play at film festivals, and the results make quite an impact on filmfest audiences, making them not only laugh but also care. “The Discontentment of Ed Telfair” is no exception, by any means.

Like the previous films, “The Discontentment of Ed Telfair” is a short comedy, but with a somewhat dark edge to it. It begins with a shot of two seemingly-ordinary men standing yards away from the camera, facing away from it. They stand for a while, not doing anything, until one of them points a pistol at the other man’s head and shoots him dead. The way the shooter looks at the fallen man (as the film’s title appears) practically sets the tone for the rest of the film. It’s disturbing and yet oddly funny.

That opening shot is worthy of the Coen Brothers.

Cut to shortly before that incident, as we see what led up to that surprise kill. Ed Telfair (Jeff Bailey) is an insecure, mundane man who runs a trophy shop (in a scene that recalls “Antiquities,” he’s pushed around by a client who isn’t satisfied with his order, and he’s just forced to take it). Ed has a beautiful wife, Cindy (Mary Faulkner), and a likeable best friend, Doug (John Isner). But he starts to notice a few things about the two that become somewhat clearer to him, the more he translates from afar. So he decides to take care of things on his own.

Period. That is all I’ll say about the plot. I’m not even sure what I can get away with revealing anymore. But treading a little bit of water here, I’ll just say that this setup is leading up to a payoff that is beyond hilarious. I’ve noticed that Campbell’s films seem to end exactly when the time is right (and being comedies, they also serve as effective “punchlines”), particularly with “The Orderly” and especially with this one. Without giving anything away, the ending to this film is just perfect.

When all is said and done, “The Discontentment of Ed Telfair” is pure Campbell through and through. This guy is clearly distinguishing himself as a very talented, inventive independent filmmaker—somewhat of an “unsung hero” in that sense (although certainly not in the Central Arkansas filmmaking field; he has a respectable position there). I heard that he is working on a feature-film version of his short film “Antiquities”—if it’s as great as the original short (or Campbell’s other shorts, for that matter), I think independent-film audiences all over the country are in for a real treat. For now, we have this fantastic short film called “The Discontentment of Ed Telfair,” which is currently in its festival run. If it plays in a festival near you, check it out. It’s shot nice, it leads to a brilliant resolution, and it’s quirkily deranged to the high point of enjoyment.

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