Written and directed by Gabrielle Rosson, co-written with lead actor Kris Salvi, a twisted buddy movie about two friends with a dark past who’ve come to the end of the road, and wouldn’t want it any other way. Also starring: Paul Kandarian, Sarah Morse, Justin Thibault and Juliette Tittel.
It’s immediately noticeable how much time and effort has gone into crafting a 1950’s style setting and it creates a very strong atmosphere that gives it a quintessential brooding, almost melancholy air that comes with any crime drama or noir from the 50s. One of the great things about the film is that it doesn’t try to immediately dive into the plot, it may only have ten minutes to work with but it takes its time and focuses on Salvatore (Salvi), slowly revealing what kind of a character he is. There’s in an inherent irony in saying that any short film has a slow build but it’s a good way to describe the pace of this film, it lets you sit back and ease into things before diving into the crux of the story.
Its story is a fairly simple one, a classic tale of two friends, one who’s left the world of crime and is trying to live the straight life and one that’s never going to give it up. It may not be necessarily complicated but the way that it’s written allows for a lot of what’s not said to be clearly inferred and for you to piece the larger picture together yourself, which helps to draw you in. It hits a lot of typical notes for gangster and crime stories, which combined with the period visual compliments each other into making something that’s familiar yet new. There’s some aggression and violence brought into its latter moments which is done in a well-balanced way, it doesn’t become graphic or uncomfortable but it has a dark enough edge to be impactful. The direction is very similar in bringing about that familiarity, but not in the sense that in feels unoriginal, instead in a way that really embraces the 50s setting and tells the story with a heavy influence of the directorial style of classic film. That influence really helps to create that palpable 50s atmosphere, it’s a clear sign of each aspect working together to create a great consistency across the board.
Salvi’s performance as Salvatore hits all the necessary notes, he holds a stoic yet temperamental presence typical of your usual gangster, almost all emotion is held back until the very moment its needed and that stark change in demeanour is effective. Thibault as Santo, the reformed criminal trying to live the simple life, is also a really solid performance, you can feel his nerves and apprehension at Salvatore’s presence and the likely consequences. The two of them don’t say a whole lot to each other but their performances do convey that former friendship and you can see the conflict that lingers unsaid during their conversation.
There are really only a couple of elements that step slightly outside of that consistency, the first being the lead song choice as while it does fit thematically with the film, it lands outside of the period the film is set in so it knocks that seamless 50s style back slightly. Similarly, with the choice to include a drone type shot, it’s always great to see directors and cinematographers experimenting with the visual but that brief change in its otherwise extremely consistent style feels somewhat out of place.
Salvation holds an impressively strong atmosphere, creates a flawless 50s visual which demonstrates a real care and dedication to the project, and has a surprisingly compelling story. Being only the second short film from writer and director Rosson, the consistency and style is a sincere achievement. It brings in a little bit of darkness, crime, violence and conflict with a seedy edge but a well-balanced story that doesn’t rush but takes its time to draw you in. It brings a little bit of classic film into the present while still feeling original.