Reviews Short Narrative

Daddy’s On the Sands (2020) – 3 stars

Director: Uriah Herr

Writers: Dustin Charlton

Cast: Dustin Charlton

Running time: 3mins

It was a pleasant surprise to be asked to review Daddy’s On the Sands. Since writing for Indy Film Library, it has been the first music video to land on my pile (and might be the first such film to be reviewed on this platform), making it a welcome palate cleanser. At the same time, let’s be honest, is there a single person who does not like music? Even if it is country

Because this is a film review site, rather than one for music – and partially because this particular genre isn’t really my jam – I won’t be touching base on it much for the purposes of the review. Instead, I will be focusing on the accompanying clip itself. One thing I should note however it that for the most part, Remmy Blackwell’s song and Uriah Herr’s visuals are a good match.

The story takes place in the desert, as wannabe-rock-star (Dustin Charlton) stumbles blindly through the dusty wasteland, dragging an empty bottle and his guitar along. There is a little bit of ‘70s nostalgia at play in the film’s aesthetics, something which helps it kick off nicely. We immediately get the hint that we’ve seen versions of this story told before, without this simply being a re-tread.

As our hero wanders through the endless desert, we get the feeling that he is troubled, and lost. Meanwhile, the vast and stunning expanses of nothing make for a simple yet highly impactful back-drop. All goes well for the first minute, until visual effects department enters the fray.

Our hero hits the dusty road with some brand of vintage muscle car, coinciding with the screen turning red. When the perspective moves from outside the car to the passenger’s seat, we get to see a vague figure of our hero walking around the desert in the shot, as if we are told that “yes, he is driving the car but his mind is off to his being lost in the wilderness.”

While this is theoretically a good way to extend the earlier metaphor of his lack of direction or purpose, the visual effects are relatively poor and they compromise the film’s quality overall. For example, the musician’s shadow falls behind him at the wrong angle corresponding to the sunset – flagging up the fact the filmmakers didn’t have the time, or discipline to wait to film him against a real sunset. Unfortunately, such effects are present until the end of the film.

Another big change that cannot go unnoticed is the change in editing. We go from nicely timed cuts to a more frenetic pace, building to an almost frantic editing that doesn’t quite correspond with the music’s own crescendo. It could be that the director wants to speed up the story to help us empathise with the hero’s faster marching towards his end – but the idea that cutting speed might accelerate needs to be present through the whole piece to adequately pull this off. As a result, it becomes another factor detracting from the film’s overall polish.

Daddy’s On the Sand finishes with a spiralling shot, one which actually put me in mind of a project of my own. At the start I was highly motivated and things began well, but by its mid-point I lost interest and tried to wrap things up; making a bit of a mess in the process. Unfortunately, that seems to sum up this film too.

When working on a project, as difficult as it may be, there is always a fresh eye needed, especially when wrapping it up. If it is difficult to detach yourself from it, ask somebody else’s advice. I believe that such an approach could have helped the creator in maintaining the same quality throughout the entire film – rather than cutting corners and leaving the opening and closing acts of the end product to butt heads with each other.

Are you a filmmaker looking for independent professional feedback like this? For honest, straightforward opinions and constructive insight into how you can improve your work, submit your work to Indy Film Library on FilmFreeway now.

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