Family can be challenging at the best of times. It's often said that you can pick your friends but not your family - as a way to excuse the bad behavior of a blood relative. However, siblings can be even more complicated given the right conditions. Rivalry, jealousy, and even favoritism in many cases estrange siblings, and for more than some, that estrangement can last a very long time. Josh Pickup's short film "Gates" does use a lot of what I've written above as a springboard of sorts, but the estrangement of the sisters in this film stems mainly from something neither one of them had control over. Nonetheless, the awkwardness and anger are still present and accounted for between Grace and Ella - the heroines of this short film. "Gates" is a drama for those who can appreciate the story - in other words, anyone who has a strained relationship with a sibling or family member.
The setup is simple enough. The sisters agree to go on a cross-country trek bringing only what they can carry and a tent. For the older sister Grace the goal is simple - to reconnect with her younger sister, who seems to be going through some troubled times. Troubled times you ask? Yes, reader, troubled times indeed. Although the exact nature of Ella's issues are never thrown right in the viewers face, the clues are there right from the start, and those clues only intensify. I clearly remember a scene showcasing some nasty-looking bruises on Ella's back. As their camping adventure continues, we learn a little more about the sisters' situation, but "Gates" is more about the sisters themselves and the journey - and it all worked out quite nicely. Josh Pickup's short film holds many of its cards face out, allowing viewers ample drama, but it also keeps some of those cards closer to the chest for any who want to dig a little deeper. The short and sweet of it? I highly recommend this short film to anyone who enjoys a good drama.
... And that's just it. A good drama. One that, on the surface, isn't overly complicated, but the more you care to dig, the more you may get out of it. This isn't a flashy short film by any means, but what it lacks in the pizzaz department it makes up for with some beautiful scenery - and some excellent performances from the two leading ladies. There is a contrast between the sisters that acts almost like a third character in the film from the start. It's clear from the beginning that their journey is meant as a way to reconnect, and as the film moves forward, the exact details become more apparent. Another thing that hit me about "Gates" was the excessive amount of montage sequences. I only bring up this fact because usually, I'm not a big fan of piling up the musical segments. Generally, it creates a "music video" effect, but here's the thing ... in this case, the sequences really did contribute to the film in a good way. I can't quite pinpoint the exact why, but I suspect it has something to do with the sisters' relationship. There's not much dialog in the movie, and when the sisters actually talk, it's awkward and angry. Then you have the cheery montage sequences that act as an opposing force to what you've heard through their vocal conversations. As I wrote, it's hard to explain, but I can say this. Whatever the exact reasons are - it worked.
When it's all said and done, Josh Pickup and his troupe set out to tell a good story in the best way possible - and more than succeeded. "Gates" is not only a nicely put-together short film, but it's a well-acted one. I can't say for sure that it will be everyone's cup of tea but for myself? "Gates" hit all the right notes in all the right places. Sometimes you don't need a whole lot to make a great film - especially when you pick the right people. Well done, four out of five stars.