Cole is just trying to get by. The pandemic has been brutal, with government turmoil ever-present and the ongoing budget crisis; people are scared and just barely hanging on. Barricading yourself indoors with an eye on the news is seemingly the new norm as everyone braces for what's coming next. Amid all this, Cole's daughters Carly and Chloe are also doing what they can to keep busy. The youngest, Chloe, is pushing hard for a return to normal. She is back to "in person" schooling and gets out whenever possible. Unfortunately, the pandemic has created a restlessness in her that she continues to take out on her sister - with increasingly adverse reactions. Her sister Carly is the exact opposite. She enjoys homeschooling and alone time - especially alone time with her camera. Carly is a little shutterbug, and it's made apparent that the camera has played a considerable role in helping her cope with the current state of things. I can easily relate.
Cole and Carly, in the film, are the most alike. Both lean into their isolation with safety always in mind. Cole seems lonely, even with the two girls in the house, and as stated above, Carly has withdrawn into her camera. It's quickly apparent that the youngest sibling Chloe is desperately trying to get attention, even if, for the most part, she is going about it the wrong way. During one of her "moments," Chloe steals Carly's camera, and as luck would have it, the camera stops working. As expected, Carly is devastated, and then something weird happens. The camera begins to work again ... only, it now seems to have a mind of its own, a haunted camera. But what exactly is it trying to say or do? The two sisters begin a journey with Carly's mysterious camera leading the way and my two cents in a nutshell? "Optics" ended up being a charming piece of indie filmmaking - with a heaping helping of warmth to melt the heart. The skinny from this reviewer? Mark McDermott's film is highly recommended.
On the technical side of things? I really don't have all that much to write. Everything looks pretty good; the dialog came through loud and clear, and for the most part, the pacing was just about right. Perhaps not perfect as I believe "Optics" feels a "little" bit long but generally speaking? It all felt pretty tight. I'm not suggesting this was the perfect indie film - only that it kept me interested from start to finish, and that's what counts. I also appreciated that the story was tooled within the "stay at home" world, which worked well for this low-budget production. Perhaps I should come right out and state that although this is an indie micro-budgeted film, for the most part, it doesn't look like one. Clearly, "Optics" didn't have a budget of twenty million bucks, but it does feel bigger than I'm guessing it was.
At the end of the day? Mark McDermott's film is interesting and charming. You may think this is a story of sibling rivalry or something of the sort, and you would be kind of right but for me? "Optics" was all about reconnecting. This is a story that focuses on two sisters and how a haunted camera helped them remember that they were just that. Two sisters. A family. Yes, reader, Cole does play a role in this film, but his character mainly rounds off the story - and solidifies the mental state of everyone involved. I'm not going to spill the beans on what is "actually" happening with the camera, but I'll admit it did catch me off guard. "Optics" ended up being a cleverly written film that when it was all said and done? Just worked. Four stars.