There is something to be said for making a short film with two actors in a single location. It makes the production easier, cost less, and allows the audience to focus and connect with the characters without having to involve themselves with a lot of separate plot threads. There is an economy to short films that make them appealing to viewers online as well as at film festivals.
The new film by Emile Nightshade, I KNOW YOU, is compelling despite its flaws. Before we address those, let’s examine what works in this movie. First, the screenplay by Richard Nathan is strong, making a twenty-three-minute existential dialogue not feel tedious. There are a couple of visual effects towards the end that are done well, and the final shot (using voiceover) delivers on the premise of the story, which is satisfying.
The plot is fairly simple. Two people are in a location who don’t know who they are, and in the process of trying to figure it out, touch upon heady subjects like simulation theory, gender identity and societal roles, and the nature of how we think of ourselves in the context of the world and other people. It’s these themes that allow I KNOW YOU to flourish in what otherwise would be a tough watch for any other film of this length with some of the issues present in it.
So, let’s address those issues. The first one is something we’ve seen in so many lower budget independent films, and no matter how much the technology gets better, this is one area that is the most frequently flawed, and that is audio. The characters sound like they are in an echo-y warehouse rather than a small well-appointed flat. There was also some issue with the depth-of-field where everything felt flat throughout the film, and it was even a question at one point of how much of the film was actually shot on a green screen, as the actors felt out of place in much of the movie. This could be played off as part of the premise, but we’re not certain if it was intentional or not. Last, the acting was a little wooden at first, and the line delivery not very good, but to be fair it improved as the film went on. It was as if the actors had just met five minutes prior to filming and were still figuring out how to bounce off each other. In some ways this could be helpful to the film, but not quite this time.
If I were a festival programmer, I would have a hard time placing this film in a block of other shorts, but it would fit perfectly as a short film before a feature on opening or closing nights. It’s not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, but it is flawed. It does make me want to seek out more from this screenwriter and director though, as there are some great ideas here that I would love to see explored in future movies.