Paradigm (Short FIlm)

7 Nov

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

There are two expressions often carried around when someone compared to his/her parent(s), and each has an opposite meaning—“You are not your parents” and “You’ve become like your parents.” When parents make mistakes, kids tend to make an inner sacred pact that they won’t make similar mistakes. Some make it through, following that pact while escaping childhood trauma. Others aren’t so lucky, even as they try; haunting ghosts from the past tend to get in the way of rational thought, and they find themselves doing almost exactly what they swore they wouldn’t do. Writer-director Jess Carson’s 26-minute short film “Paradigm” shows an example of the latter possibility. It begins with happy newlyweds and ends with their marriage fallen apart, as they make unforgivable choices that can be traced back to hurtful events from one’s childhood. The husband, Derrick (Kyle Wigginton), came from a home of abuse, due to his alcoholic father, Maverick (Scott McEntire) who would abuse him and his mother, Anna (Casondra Witham). By the end of the film, Derrick will have inherited similar traits and behaviors, and his wife, Jocelyn (Mindy Van Kuren), will take it no more.

The film begins with a tender moment in which Derrick and Jocelyn refer to each other playfully as Mr. and Mrs. Peters before Derrick reveals his fear of becoming like his cruel father and hurting her. She assures him that it won’t happen, but as time goes on, the Honeymoon stage ends and things start to get worse when they find they can’t have children. This puts Derrick in a bitter mood. Five months pass, and we see them barely relating to each other, as Derrick starts a bad habit of drinking and they start having arguments. During one such argument, Derrick hits her…

The short mostly takes place inside Derrick and Jocelyn’s house, showing us how their marriage transitions into a disaster. And the film doesn’t shy away from some pretty tough material. By the end of the film, I was actually kind of depressed (and the Sheldon Kopp quote shown before the credits didn’t help much either).

Flashbacks that show Derrick’s father’s behavior are effectively handled, as they intersect with situations in the present that mirror the present. There are times when Derrick practically repeats his father’s harsh words word for word to Jocelyn. It’s a clever move.

“Paradigm” is more of an actor’s film, so a lot rides on the performances. Mindy Van Kuren does a great job playing a suffering woman who wonders when the line will be drawn in her relationship. Scott McEntire, who has acted in other shorts I’ve reviewed (such as “Stuck” and “A Matter of Honor”), turns in some of his best work as the father. But I am of two minds about Kyle Wigginton’s performance as Derrick. On the one hand, I see it as a poor acting job. His shouting moments seem a little off to me; he sounds like he’s forcing the anger. But on the other hand, Derrick is supposed to come across as pathetic, so maybe it was Wigginton’s choice to play it like this. I’ve seen him do well in other shorts, like “Blood Brothers,” so I wouldn’t doubt it.

I like “Paradigm,” but I think it could’ve been better with tighter editing. Some scenes seem a little long and even make the film somewhat repetitive. But I guess that was the point—to show the slow proceedings of this relationship in a way that we can get why/how it came to this, and to also show as it gets worse. In that respect, I shouldn’t complain too much about it. “Paradigm” is an effective short that worked for me.

NOTE: The film can be seen here: http://jessvcarson.wix.com/10th-dimension-pro#!paradigm/c20as

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