Reviews Short Narrative

Brand New Beginnings (2019) – 1.5 stars

Director: Matthew Fischer

Writer: Matthew Ford

Cast: Christopher Maxwell, Harold T. Spencer, Sarah Bennington

Running time: 15mins

In a not-so-distant future, Seth and Tristan are facing some difficulties in their relationship. Technology offers a quicker fix than counselling apparently could, so they decide to undergo a procedure which will allow them to erase all negative memories and continue with a happier life.

Kate (Sarah Bennington), the specialist guiding them through this procedure, informs them that there is a ‘reset button’; an injection that can stop the procedure and allow them to keep their memories. While in the facility, they argue about whether this is the right choice, if they should go to couples therapy instead. Tristan states he does not want to forget the bad moments either, as “our memories are the closest thing to a time machine.”

In between arguments, we travel back in time and see some of the couple’s moments, both good and bad; from their first day together, through their first argument, toward addiction and dead ends. Tristan opts for the reset button and to keep all memories, while Seth has undergone through the whole procedure, meaning he returns to their relationship full of love, ignorant now of their dramatic past.

Unfortunately, this story comes almost a decade too late and as a result this tech-driven melodrama almost comes across as one of Charlie Brooker’s cast-offs. For all its philosophical posturing, from a narrative perspective, the story includes too many escalation points, which require focus by the viewer, only to end up being dramatic assets: drug addiction, infidelity and Tristan’s father are just a few of them. The latter got me especially confused: how does the father’s mention play into the story? How does it tie to the characters’ evolution? Was he a cheater? Did he abandon his family altogether? Did he fail to accept Tristan for his sexual orientation? It seems as if there is a whole avenue of plot here which has simply been left as a cul-de-sac.

At the same time the overwhelming story creates a noticeable contrast to the film’s acting. There is a lack of chemistry between Christopher Maxwell and Harold T. Spencer, who are supposedly portraying a couple with a long and passionate history. The pair struggle to convey the atmosphere of a once loving pair, and instead fall back on catty mannerisms and clichés. Unfortunately, instead of two partners who now despise each other, they end up looking like a caricature of a gay couple.

Furthermore, the production is all in all of very low quality, which is taking a big toll on the film. Futuristic sci-fi needs to be visually and audibly slick, but the sound and image quality are so poor, you can actually see the make up on Bennington’s face – and it is not complimentary. Lighting meanwhile creates strange shadowing in places, as if there is a floor lamp facing the actors’ direction. Meanwhile, the editing of the piece is initially fast paced enough for the story, but only up until the point where flashbacks come into place, after which the tempo is lost.

At the same time, there is not a sufficient distinction between present time and the film’s past storyline. The characters are not distinct enough to show where they are on the timeline, so we have to guess where and when we are via the setting – speaking of which, it feels as if there was not enough effort put into getting the set ready. It is understandable that, as a new and independent filmmaker, location scouting and set is a challenge. The limited budget results to relying on friends and family and more creative means. Nonetheless, there was nothing that could convince me that the pair was sharing that home or that they were visiting a medical facility.

Overall grade: 1.5 stars

Brand New Beginnings comes across as a first draft of an early Black Mirror episode; one which fortunately saw its narrative fat drastically trimmed to focus on the core themes more effectively. In future, the team behind this film will have to edit down their ideas better in order to put across the moralistic messages they aim to.

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