Review: Number One

Written and directed by Emily Dabney, a young couple explore their sexuality, monogamy and polyamory through a confusing series of moments in their relationship. Starring: Kathryn Miller, Jeff Skomsky, Joan Chak, Connie Giordano and William Martinez.

Whether people can truly be monogamous or whether they should even have to be is a question that dominates a lot of modern media, and Number One along with them. However, the story is not the star of the show here but Emily Dabney’s direction. Visually the film has a great personality, there’s a superb use of colour, assisted by the cinematography from Mike Gialloreto, and brings a touch of a NYC style to Philadelphia. Considering this is only the second short from writer, director Dabney, its strong aesthetic is impressive. It’s modern and youthful, it holds a certain depth which unfortunately the story’s emotions don’t quite meet but that doesn’t undermine the quality of the direction.

The story itself hits quite a few familiar points, including the classic decision to open up a relationship only for one of the pair to discover it’s not for them. It’s sentimental, and traverses a road that touches upon love, commitment, naivety and sexuality. Although the path it takes is one that’s rather messy, events start out well enough but after it hits the half-way mark it attempts a steep change for the more intense which lacks a smooth progression. The dialogue could use a little extra refining, and there are some strange choices in the latter moments which don’t entirely gel with the rest of the film. Also its handling of the question of bisexuality is somewhat dated, not matching the more modern attitude the characters typically hold, and there isn’t enough time dedicated to really explore it.

Kathryn Miller and Jeff Skomsky take the lead with a decent chemistry, it isn’t the strongest of connections but the feeling is there. They aren’t entirely matched in skill in this instance, while Skomsky can come across as trying slightly too hard at times, Miller is consistent throughout. She brings a widely relatable quality to Mae, without feeling as though she doesn’t have personality. Your impression of them may well colour your opinion of the journey it takes, while some may cheer for them to stay together, others may not find the ‘belonging together’ atmosphere and instead interpret it as a lesson of self-reflection and worth.

Number One shows a great deal of talent from director Emily Dabney, much beyond that of only a second foray into the short film world. Sadly, the writing side can’t quite live up to the visual quality, leaning overly towards sentimentality and trying to fit too much too fast into its latter half. It fits well into the modern representation of changing relationships but is simply in need of some fine tuning.

Verdict: ✯✯✯½ | 7/10

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