To be honest, the first thing that caught my attention was the music of Ian Cusson in “Fool’s Game” – it added an audible drama to get our attention throughout the credits - as chess pieces moved around on the board with the names flashing by—an excellent indicator for sure. We meet Peter and Ava as they prepare for a dinner party, and from the sounds of things, it’s been a while since they attempted their last one. Soon after, we meet their guests, Sam and Matt, who are a much newer couple compared to their hosts, and it’s not long before we can see the subtle pangs of jealousy in Peter & Ava as they remember what they had once been. I loved the way that “Fool’s Game” splices in scenes that cut back to the chess board as the conversation begins to get more complex & the temperature in the room continues to rise steadily.
As “Fool’s Game” progresses, it’s clear that no one is safe from scrutiny – and I’m lovin’ it all! While I understand that there’s an intentional awkwardness being presented purposely here, I also find myself wishing that this was more like what hanging out with a group of friends tended to be like. The four of our main characters push past the small talk quickly, and it’s not long before they’re taking critical deep dives into the different paths they’ve taken career & life-wise - while realizing their own potential shortcomings in the process. It’s one thing to take stock of yourself and internally assess what’s right and wrong with the life you’re living – and it’s another thing entirely to hear it from someone else, right? For example, hearing Sam describe Matt at 40 years of age as “just hitting his stride” - and the many things he doesn’t have to even consider as a male that any female would certainly have to think about was something else, and though he does notice, he’s still on his phone texting through half of what she has to say. Meanwhile, Peter is doing what he thinks is a very careful and delicate dance around the issue of Ava being a stay-at-home mom – and while he’s fairly certain that he’s saying a lot of the right things – good things – we’re also fairly sure as viewers that he’s still not quite getting all that is involved in everything that his wife has to do in her day to day life - to keep the family running smoothly.
"It really comes down to the couple and if both your needs are being met.” There are many insightful lines of dialogue to be found in this short fifteen-minute film, and that’s definitely one to be considered. “Fool’s Game” also cleverly examines our need for self-protection in conversations. As in, how much do you share with friends that you haven’t seen in years? What should you say – and more importantly, what shouldn’t you say? Just because you might personally be okay with revealing information about yourself and your love life - like Peter is, doesn’t mean that someone like Ava necessarily feels the same. Before long, the conversation reveals a room divided, just like a chess board would be, with two sides of the same story – love – approaching the concept from completely different perspectives. You’ve got the more traditional view of things from Peter & Ava versus the new-age polyamorous view of Matt & Sam. Does each side have its own set of unique problems to deal with? You betcha! But where “Fool’s Game” really excels is in how it brings these two sides together to confront one serious issue they share.
Directed by Laurence Roberts, I’ve gotta say, “Fool’s Game” was a really well-done short film. Like the best of ’em, whenever you find a short film you love, viewers naturally want more of what they find. I know I would have sat like the proverbial fly on the wall and watched this conversation for hours, let alone the minutes we get to spend with our main characters. Credit where credit is due, Roberts did an excellent job of showing us what needed to be seen, and the screenplay by Angela Bell was written perfectly – between them, you get tension, drama, joy, pain, and a very serious finale to “Fool’s Game.” The cast was superb all the way through – it would be sincerely tough to pick any one of them as any better than the rest, and they all bring something unique to the plot. You’ve got the subtle fury of Ava (Lora Burke) buried so deep you’d almost miss it. You’ve got the cluelessness of her husband, Peter (Jordan Duarte), who clearly means well. You’ve got what seems like a carelessness & somewhat self-centered vibe from Matt (Fuad Ahmed) and a more mature but aggressive approach to life from Sam (Angela Bell) – they all contribute key elements to this story, and their acting was spot-on as a collective.
I don’t want to give anything away, but because of the fifteen-minute runtime, there are only about ten minutes of actual film in between the bookends of the credits, so you’ve got time to watch “Fool’s Game” and you SHOULD – but rest assured, for what seems like a casual group of friends, the bonds that run between them all run so much deeper than any of us realize at first. If you’re paying close attention, you’ll see that “Fool’s Game” is continually leading you to the conclusion of its short story and snapshot into a couple of couple’s lives. I felt like they really moved this plotline along in a clever way that allowed us the opportunity to keep pace with it - if we’re attempting to piece together this puzzle and recognize that there was more than meets the eye going on here from the minute it started.
I’ve got no notes to add really… the characters are great, the acting makes them all very real, and the dialogue is without flaws – it might be a “Fool’s Game,” but it’s pretty much a perfect short film. If there’s something they could have done better, it’s hard to conceive of what that could be. There’s always room to expand the ideas of a short film, of course, but that’s somewhat the nature of taking projects like that on, and if that’s as critical of a point that can be made, you’ve done an exceptionally great job all-around, in my opinion. I didn’t feel like there was anything really overlooked or left out in “Fool’s Game” – it gets a solid four and a half stars out of five from me. It’s really well done.