The First 2011
14min | Short, Drama
You always remember your first.
It can be quite humbling to watch student films because sometimes it is just depressing to see a 19-year old deliver something clever, inventive and just plain professional – something that if you gave me another life I would not be able to do. Other times it can be depressing to see a lack of these qualities – or a film that is professional and technically proficient but generally is just one big reference of the influences of this student. The First falls in the middle of these feelings because on one hand it is a very interesting short, but on the other it feels so mass produced and hackneyed that it is hard to get to the jewel at the core.
The story is a coming-of-age romance but it is different as our main character is bi-sexual and seems to be exploring his own preferences and feelings although at the same time he is hurting others in the process. This is structured pretty well with different partners and I liked the idea but unfortunately while the core of the film suggests it is about the heart and the characters, everything else screams “teen network TV programming”. Perhaps it is a clever attempt to subvert a genre feel from inside, but the mass produced feel to this is offputting, whether it be the corny sentimentality of the “happy” scenes, through to the heavy use of the type of “feel my pop-friendly angst” music that I always associated with singer/songwriters who get their stuff sold in Starbucks outlets. These aspects really put me off and they mask complexity and reality in just corn and syrup.
The cast are OK but not great – they are students I guess but still they are stilted and tend to overplay the dramatic. Visually it looks good and professional but again the “look” was that of One Tree Hill or a hundred similar products but I have seen several things from Dodge recently and what I’ve seen tends towards this rather than more unhinged stuff (not saying one is better than the other). Another common Dodge thing seems to be bad sound quality and it is the case here – I have no idea of the technical side, but if you have two people talking in a room, one should not sound clear while the other is tinny and need turning up to hear what they said.
The First suggests more than it delivers and it is a shame because the core of it is a good idea and interesting story but it just gets swallowed up in a sea of generic delivery whether it be the look, the dialogue, the so-so acting or the type of music that every network show plays out with when it has a “feels” moment to try and force the viewer into.
Director: James Sweeney
Writer: James Sweeney
Stars: Brian Dare, Emily Davenport, Jake Sturdevant