Although billed as a comedy, the truth is that Matthew Manhire's "Flames" is anything but. By the end of this short film, an argument could even be made that it is a little grotesque - although also quite fitting. But just because this title isn't all that comedic doesn't make it a bad film - quite the contrary, actually. Manhire's short flick is pretty damn good, and the message also happens to be good. The message, you ask? Perhaps not entirely in your face, but for me, the message was evident as the stars on a cloudless night. Maybe I suffer from wishful thinking syndrome, but I don't think so. The bottom line, for me, is that "Flames" was a great way to spend a short amount of time.
Keeping things as spoiler-free as possible, Manhire's short film follows two men who quickly begin preparing for a small event. A wrestling session hidden away in an abandoned lot. It quickly becomes apparent that they do, in fact, have an audience watching with his binoculars - an older, clearly bitter man who seems to enjoy bullying the two men. Why? Because their wrestling style is not quite what he is looking for. Clearly, the two athletes would rather be doing something else and are caught right in the middle of a bitter older man's dreams, beliefs, probably both.
Let me cut right to it. Although an indie production, "Flames" earns a gold star in the technical department. The images, edits, and even sound design all work together to create something that indeed looks great. "Flames" could have ended up being a disaster, but clearly, the exact opposite happened. The short film is also pretty straightforward with the way it tells its story. Save maybe a hidden message peeking through the upfront shenanigans; I had no problem picking up precisely what was happening. Quite quickly. Although I think the ending was a little grim, especially after reading the included description, I also felt it was a great way to end this title. I do think, however, that Manhire should alter his synopsis slightly. I rarely read included descriptions and tend to let a title speak for itself - and I had no idea of the older man's identity until after the film. I thought it worked better that way because even if deserving, the older man's fate, considering his relationship with the athletes, felt very grim and countered the experience I had watching the film.
When it's all said and done, I enjoyed "Flames" and the message I "believe" it visualized. This was, in my opinion, a nice little reminder to essentially just do you and never succumb to pressure if you hold an ideal in your heart. Matthew Manhire's film was quick but full of heart. A solid three and a half stars.