I tell ya, folks, I've got a lot of love for the short filmmakers out there who can really make something significant happen in such a small timeframe. It's not an easy thing to do! When you realize how a movie of about ninety minutes gets several opportunities to make a tiny piece of their film stand out - enough to generate that award buzz - and how most of them still shoot wide of the mark… well, you gotta hand it to those out there that 'can' accomplish something in under five minutes. Something that director Ryan Nunes 'does' with "After The Beep."
You see, there is a lot that gets left out of the holiday season celebrations, and I know this is true because I live through it every year as one of those Generation X children of divorce. More to the point, children of divorces; as in, I've racked up more moms and dads than most of you have cousins throughout the years. While the majority of people I know are gearing up to go to that one spot they call home during the holidays, I've constantly had to think about which place I'm going to, who I'm leaving out, who's gonna be hurt by my decision that year, and/or if I can squeeze in about seven stops within that one day so that no one gets upset. For me, the holidays are, without question, the most stressful part of the year, and I've felt that way about 'em since I was eight years old. I'm turning forty-three next week. So, believe me; I can tell that Ryan gets it. We might have had somewhat different paths, but he clearly understands the stress of the holiday season and how it can significantly affect someone's mental state.
"After The Beep" is all about the anxiety-inducing aspects of the holiday season and how it has an effect long after the holidays come and go. It's about how that build-up to these special times can be a monstrous weight on the mind - and how once the date arrives, it is often so overwhelming that no one even knows what to say. You spend your time watching the character of Jake, played by writer/director Nunes, trying to leave the one message on his dad's answering machine that's going to say it all in one shot, and you see exactly how hard that is. You see the confusion, the sadness, the anger, the pain – all of that is collected into a tight three-and-a-half-minute glimpse into a very under-represented aspect of what the holidays are about for so many people. I appreciate everything Ryan has done here. In this short amount of time, he's expressed what a ton of folks feel about the holidays and how they're not filled with happiness - but much more dread and drama than your average happy family would realize. I've been there firsthand many times. I've driven four cities across the province of British Columbia on Christmas Day to get to my dad's house, only to realize that when I was about to knock on the door, I couldn't do it. I didn't want to just participate in another round of fake family bullshit and pretend everything was okay, even for one day. So yes, I ended up driving four cities back in the other direction.
Films like "After The Beep" are important because they make you realize you're not as alone as you might feel. I know I'm not the only one watching this film that'll take solace in what Ryan's created; he's made a short film that speaks to a lot of what people go through regularly, yet is so rarely talked about, if at all. He's presented it in a genuine way that is very sincere in its goals and ambitions. I had no major concerns or criticisms with this title. I feel like you can tell it's a real phone of Ryan's that he still wants to use in real life and cares about not breaking it…so if anything, maybe his throwing of it in frustration could have potentially been ten percent more convincing - but that's not too much of a hindrance as you watch, just an observation. I do feel like there's a great chance that many folks might not even realize or recognize how real this type of thought process is - if they don't have a certain level of their own experience with it or come from one of those wonderful families where everyone is still… you know… together? That's more on them than it would be on Ryan, though. I feel like he got in everything he really needed to within a really short timeframe and potentially opened the door to a dialogue that's not only necessary for himself, perhaps, but also for many people watching "After The Beep" around the world.
I'm going with four stars out of five here – I think some might underestimate just how important it is to make a film like this one - and how it serves to help others. There could very well be a chance it won't resonate with everyone in the same way that it did with me, and I get it. Having written that, I'm thankful that I got a chance to watch "After The Beep," and I'm grateful that Nunes took the time to make it. I get where he's coming from, and I hear what he's saying, and this film hit home in more ways than one.