Review: Darkside

Written and directed by Spencer Zimmerman, after a devastating tragedy, an astronaut struggles to complete his interstellar mission to rescue a lost crew. Starring: Roland Almon, Siobhan Connors, Blakely David and P. Eugene Thiessen.

When Darkside opens, the aesthetic feels somewhere between reality and a graphic novel, the style feels realistic but with enhanced details. It’s a choice that weaves in and out throughout and matches that vast, slightly futuristic and cold, space setting. There’s a good reflection between the sombre themes of the story and Spencer Zimmerman’s directorial style. Also, involving space travel of course means there’s going to be some effects work and it can tend to be the weak point when it comes to short film but thankfully not here. It’s solid throughout and balances well with the more everyday scenes. The cinematography (by Liam Meredith) is also using a nice mix of different colour tones, similarly to the direction, in that it adapts to the mood of the film as it evolves.

There’s a lot of emotional themes at work in Darkside and it’s a tone that’s always enhanced by good score work, and this is another good example. Greg Andersen leans into the highs and lows of the film, it’s not too overt, accenting moments rather than pushing them. The performances from the film’s leads Roland Almon and Siobhan Connors also follow an understated pattern. They capture the serious, heavy nature of the story without needing to rely on dramatics or outward emotion, hitting the right tone.

However, the key issue that the film struggles with is how much it gets tangled up in those emotions and trying to bring through a lot of them in a short amount of time. It’s got a solid basis in the visuals and the idea of its story but it falls into sentimentality. At the same time it’s trying to relate itself back to a larger message about the laws of nature and the organic cycle of life. It’s a lot to cover within a dozen minutes and it can’t seem to quite bring it together smoothly enough to feel satisfying. That’s not to say that the emotion doesn’t still have value, there’s a good dose of sincerity running through it.

Darkside is an ambitious short film, it’s practically trying to give us an entire sci-fi feature’s worth of story in less than fifteen minutes. It creates an interesting aesthetic that moves from a simple reality to a more complex one, with its edges leaning towards a graphic novel style. The performances are great, it’s got a terrific score and solid editing work but it trips itself up with the level of emotion that it’s going for in its plot. It feels as though it’s being weighed down by its sentimental side and needed a bit more room to manoeuvre to bring everything together.

Verdict: ✯✯✯ | 6/10

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