A Short Review of the Short Film Illusion

I wish a bigger market existed for short films.  Unlike their flashier brethren, feature films, which earn all the glory, shorter form cinema can be more fulfilling, offering the filmmaker a better canvas to experiment and share ideas. Although I love traditional, mainstream movies in all their cookie-cutter sameness, I'm a bit biased toward short films, because as a former film student, I know how important those "one reel" (or less) productions can be.  I always imagined that if Georges Melies or Luis Bunuel were making motion pictures today, they would be dabbling in the short film arena, without the commercial constraints of lengthier studio projects. An interesting example of the briefer format is Illusion, a seven-minute short by Come What May Productions.

Directed by Jessica Hester, who previously gave us The Dress (winner of "Best Ensemble" at the L.A. Comedy Festival) Illusion is an impressive cinematic poem. The visuals are stunning, even if the narrative might be a little obtuse at first glance. The title is a hint that the story is full of dream-like symbolism rather than straight-forward exposition, but the high caliber production values invite repeat viewing, rewarding the audience that watches again and again. There are some deep ideas waiting to be discovered beneath the eye candy.

The Web site IllusionShortFilm.com offers some clues if you want spoilers. First, you can check out the trailer, which I've also embedded here.

Then you can read the synopses. Yes, that's plural -- not just one synopsis but three synopses. Let me say that again -- there are three different descriptions of the film, depending on how you wish to approach the subject matter: take your pick if you want to view it as a metaphor, as a literal tale, or as an outright fantasy. It's a novel approach. I dare say that those synopses are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of possibilities. Viewers will likely allow their own imaginations to provide some clever storyline to explain the events taking place on the screen.

I recommend just watching the film uninitiated and spoiler-free if you have a chance to see it in its entirety. Let it take you down (or up) the rabbit hole, soaring through the heavens and falling past the clowds, as you marvel at the kaleidoscopic field of flowers and try to decipher the meaning of reflections on eyeballs and the significance of ladybugs climbing a stem.

The dynamics between the two lead characters, Laura and Mark, as apparently the last couple on Earth (if you choose the literal interpretation), are mesmerizing, with each line of dialogue a clue to be unravelled or just a morsel to be consumed while entertained by the outstanding visual effects. Actress and producer Tommee May brings an endearing, childlike innocence to her role, while Ryan O'Nan delivers a good mixture of surface-level affection and underlying darkness.

Kudos to the writer Liz Iacuzzi for this little gem of a puzzle and to Jace Ford for the hauntingly beautiful original music, but especially to all the crew responsible for the look of the film, from Director of Photography Phil Holland, Timelapse Artists Mike Flores and Derek Scheickart, Visual Effects Supervisor Sam Edwards, and all the others too numerous for me to name. 

Illusion will premiere at the Beverly Hills Film Festival. I hope many of you have the chance to see it there and elsewhere.