An Ode to Angeline (Short Film)

14 Sep

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Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2
Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Ever since the UCA-produced 20-minute short “John Wayne’s Bed,” I consider writer-director Sarah Jones to be one of the most talented independent Central Arkansas filmmakers around. And what’s great about her filmography of short films (made in Arkansas) is each one is different. With “John Wayne’s Bed,” it’s a riveting drama & character study. With “Turn Right onto Madness,” it’s a slasher film. And I hear she has a new documentary, “The Guard Responds,” about the Arkansas National Guard’s response to the tornado that swept through the Central Arkansas communities Mayflower and Vilonia earlier this year.

But of course, there’s also “An Ode to Angeline,” Jones’ 4-minute short that premiered at the Little Rock Film Festival a few months ago. I caught it there along with the other numerous Arkansas shorts I reviewed. I knew I liked it, but I think the reason I didn’t review it then was because…well, because I needed to see it again. Its very brief running time didn’t help much either (though I did end up reviewing Eric White’s “Perfect Machine: Homefront,” which is actually two minutes shorter than “An Ode to Angeline”). There seems to be enough material for at least a 10-to-15-minute short. As it is, it’s a 4-minute “ode,” as the title suggests, and it’s still a pretty damn good one. Seeing it again, I can say it’s a well-made, disturbingly effective short that seemed to have more on its mind and left me with more to think about.

The film is about a man who is obsessed with an unattainable beauty (named Angeline) and expresses his feelings to…well, I can’t exactly say to whom. That’s one of the problems with reviewing a film as short as this. Bottom line is, he wants so badly for her to want him that he wants her to suffer as much as he did/does. And that’s all I can say about the story.

Okay, as you can probably tell from my not-so-subtle writing style, the running time is getting to me. But why should it? I mean, the craftsmanship is evident in the directing & editing; the actor playing the narrator, Johnnie Brannon (no stranger to my Short reviews—read “PM: Homefront,” read “Twinkletown,” read “Still Life,” read “A Way Out,” and holy crap, this guy gets around), is chillingly good; it is an ode, as the title states, and it’s about as long as it should be in that sense. Maybe my problem is I don’t want Sarah Jones to make an “ode.” After seeing what she’s done with the material for “John Wayne’s Bed,” I would’ve liked to see what more she could do with this idea of obsession unleashing the inner beast, which is always fascinating. Keep the cast (which includes Kirby Gocke as Angeline), keep the crew (which includes director of photography Grant Dillion), and branch out more with this concept.

But I keep getting sidetracked here, and I have to review the film for what it is rather than what it could’ve been. I don’t dislike “An Ode to Angeline.” On the contrary, the finished product is very good. It’s very well-shot, the editing is great, the dialogue said by the Brannon character is haunting, and it works as a short thriller. Sarah Jones’ “An Ode to Angeline” is an effective short that shows yet again why Jones is a skilled filmmaker; I look forward to seeing her next film.

NOTE: After finishing this review, I messaged Jones and asked her why she chose to make a film as short as this. She said she wanted to “experiment with telling a story in under 5 minutes.” I can respect that.

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