Review: Transient

Directed by Seb Cox and co-written with Olivia Symonds and lead actor John Black, drugs that let you speak with the dead are part of the norm in society, however, maybe there is more to the afterlife then we first thought.

The second instalment in a 2018 series of films inspired by Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, in partnership with UniTV. It’s not hard to believe that a person could be enticed into becoming an addict with a drug that lets you see those you’ve lost, so despite stepping outside of reality for the majority of its conception, it still keeps one foot firmly on the ground. Lee (Black) and Mason (Stefan Chanyaem) are really the only characters at play here, unfortunately they are both slightly wooden in their performances, the latter more so, their conversations together don’t come across very smoothly. Meaning that the more emotional side of the story isn’t well held up by Black so it doesn’t quite permeate things, it’s focus that would have been possibly better used on heightening the mysterious and dangerous angles of the story, which draw you in more effectively.

It takes a little too long to get going, which doesn’t leave enough time for crux of the story, which ends up feeling slightly rushed. The actual progression of the story does work fairly well but with the ratio of time spent on each scene slightly askew, it can’t quite pull off the more complicated side of things; there was a fair deal more to explore with this concept but sadly, not the time. It’s a tall order to attempt to create a version of the iconic twisted series in just 15-minutes but this film certainly does give it a good try. It doesn’t get much of a chance for that twisted side to come out and really pull you into it before it’s over and done with. It would have been great to get to the heart of things faster and further explore the inner conflict that’s created and the larger complications of this new drug, but of course it is still a short a film so they can’t go too far but just a tad more time could have done it justice. There are a couple of aspects that could have been tightened, using Tic Tacs for drugs takes away slightly from their visual impact and Lee’s physical appearance is slightly too neat and tidy for the type of character he’s portraying, it needed a little more attention to detail in that respect.

It’s actually a rare case of using music sparingly with this film, where a lot can push too hard on an overt score that tries to force emotions, it’s extremely well chosen and used, it’s infrequent but effective. The direction is well done and the choice of using handheld feeds into its more on edge tone, the grading isn’t perfect but you can respect the effort that went into trying to create different worlds as such, separating reality from hallucination. Although with it trying to emulate Black Mirror, it’s a shame it didn’t try to go for more grit, as a whole the visual feels quite safe and softly done, taking drugs with unknown side effects adds a layer of danger but there isn’t a huge amount of follow through on that vibe to bring it out powerfully.

Transient takes a big swing at trying to achieve a warped, almost dystopian style story within 15-minutes and it has the right idea but not all of its attention is in the right places. The direction has a great up close and personal feel to it, while using a variation of shots and the story has an interesting concept that simply needed a little more time to establish itself. It was an extremely high bar that the film set for itself and it pushes hard to get there but sadly, falls slightly short.

Verdict: ✯✯✯½ | 7/10

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