Written and directed by Alison Hale, follow Scarlett, 17 years old, as she goes from getting pizza to getting chemotherapy. Having lost her mother years ago to cancer, Scarlett and her father endure tests of resilience, trust, and even a little rebellion. Starring: Casey Landman, Travis Mitchell, Frank Di Napoli, Sania Hyatt, Jennifer Piech and Amna Vegha.
The opening of Scar is a perfect example of how quickly life can change, at the drop of a hat going from a carefree teen to facing your mortality is a stark and harrowing transition. One of the strengths of both Alison Hale’s writing and direction is simultaneously dealing with the harsh reality and the daily life of a teenager. It doesn’t try to stray too far into grit and hardship but they are definitively part of the story. The other half is Scarlett (Landman) trying to retain a sense of normality, and in turn holding onto who she was before the diagnosis. It does have a few of your typical, more obvious moments of struggle, which aren’t quite as strong as the more subtle choices but they do serve a purpose in the story.
However, that’s only a small part of the overall style which Hale brings, she makes some very interesting choices with her direction. Especially that of moving outside of purely reality, separating out moments of inside Scarlett’s mind. These scenes have a certain theatrical or artistic quality which creates both a good contrast to the more down to earth scenes and a sincere weight, adding nicely to the emotional layers of the story. One of the other ways that the short adds a more distinctive style is with its use of sound. Many forget the power of sound, or lack there of, on establishing a scene and its emotions, of removing the distraction of ambient noise to add a stronger impact.
Casey Landman brings an intensely bubbly and bouncy personality to Scarlett, another factor driving home the disparity between her past and present. Her performance establishes the experience of illness but focuses on the affect of it on mental health. Cancer isn’t simply a fight of the body but also of the mind, being put through hell takes a strong will to endure it, when you barely have the energy to do so. In the strongest emotional moments, much like with the story, the portrayal feels slightly weaker, it brings in more of an overt physicality and that’s a very difficult thing to get across with authenticity when you’re working with less than twenty minutes. There isn’t a lot of focus on Travis Mitchell but he easily gets across the fatherly role, the feeling of helplessness and the desperate strive to do something to ease his daughter’s suffering.
Scar employs some interesting techniques to explore a relatable and meaningful story. It successfully manages to blend the everyday elements of illness with the mental struggle, creating a balance of the reality and the desire for normality. Casey Landman gives a very youthful and charismatic performance, leading with a sympathetic and genuine tone. It does ultimately stray into stereotypical territory which is at odds with the more unusual and affecting choices to its visual, but it doesn’t undermine its overall meaning.