Written and directed by Matthew Kyle Levine, in an attempt to find himself, a young man takes a solo voyage out into the desert. Starring: Alex Scarlatos, Tate Kenney, Shea Glasheen and Timothy J. Cox.
The way in which Henry opens gives off a vague, cryptic feel, while shots of Las Vegas have so often been used to signify heists, fun or decadence, this atmosphere doesn’t fit into those categories. Its use of a mix of very close, almost obscure angles and extremely still shots is an intriguing combination. That style builds up a curious edge, giving off sinister possibilities and teasingly leaving out details. One of the great things about starting in a hotel is that it brings a sense of anonymity, when your lead character isn’t in his own environment and initially doesn’t say much, it’s hard to piece together what sort of person they are. There’s also a quietness to its tone, which blended with a naivety that builds as we learn more about Henry, it’s a satisfyingly strange combination. As well as throwing in some great natural landscape shots later on which strengthen the visual quality.
Matthew Kyle Levine’s writing has an unusual progression, it knows where it’s going but it doesn’t feel as though the pieces are put together conventionally, it has a purposefully chaotic, but understated, energy. It holds its mysterious feel very well throughout, while there are elements of the story that could be perceived as everyday, the way that they are framed, gives them bigger possibilities. The naivety that comes through as the story moves forward is key, it moves it into focusing on the youth of Henry and reveals more layers. It’s one of the cases where leaving things unanswered works in its favour, you can happily draw your own conclusions, rather than being left unsatisfied.
It was a great piece of casting to have Alex Scarlatos as Henry, he doesn’t have a specific look or give off a particular vibe, initially leaving the character very open to options, which helps to build the mysterious atmosphere. Going in cold, the opening may leave you wondering whether it’s headed in a dark direction but as we learn about Henry, Scarlatos shows how he holds a blissful ignorance, and perhaps an over-confidence. Interestingly he doesn’t overly take the focus, the film’s perspective doesn’t feel intensely crowded around him, even though he’s the only character who appears on screen. A big part of that being how the film balances itself, its framing is not through his eyes but as an observer, it leaves a lot of breathing room for different possibilities.
Henry is a mysterious and intriguing short which takes what could have been a simple story and adds a number of unusual and curious layers. The variety in style to Matthew Kyle Levine’s direction gives a sense of unease, while his writing follows a straight path in an unexpected manner. Alex Scarlatos leads the story in a way that leaves you unsure whether he’s exactly who he seems to be, full of youth and naivety, or if there’s something else at work.