Peier "Tracy" Shen
Peier "Tracy" Shen
At some point in life, almost everyone feels like they don't belong - and alone. For most, it's a passing feeling triggered by an action, inaction, or location. A memory or the actions of someone or even something, that make us wonder - or even question a thought or choice we've had or made. In truth, it's a feeling I wouldn't wish on anybody - an emotion that is so very easy to get lost in, as you spiral inward towards a personal hell that can be much harder to deal with than most physical abuses. And a lot of the time, this feeling is self-inflicted or justified by a greater good. So, what happens next? What happens when you become a statistic, a number added to the running tally of the lonely and depressed? "Out Of Place" from writer, director, Peier Shen may not have all the answers - but it definitely knows how to showcase such emotions - and yes reader, perhaps even make its viewers think on the subject a little more than they normally would.
"Out Of Place" follows two characters through their day. A Chinese pianist preparing, and taking an unnamed exam - I'm assuming it's for some prestigious academy she is looking to attend. And then there's a Mexican man who is attempting to set himself up, and his family, for a better life. Both are immigrants and both have come to America alone. The two are neighbors and although side by side, their interactions are very brief - but their respective stories are very similar. As we follow along with Hui and Chamo, we learn what it's truly like to be alone with no real control of your life, or the lives of those you've left behind. While Hui seems to have somewhat of a support base far away at home, Chamo's problems stem not just from his own loneliness, but his wife's as well. It's all very real and very easy to not only understand, but relate with on some level. The real trick with this short film however, is the layers just beneath the main story. The pain felt by not just our main characters, but the characters left unseen as well. All in under twenty minutes.
On a technical level, "Out Of Place" doesn't disappoint. It's slick enough to look great, but also retains some of the more gritty aspects of indie filmmaking - making it feel like a real story, not just another scripted drama. Shots are not always mechanically smooth and shake free, but also never look rushed or not thought out. It's a great balance achieved using some great direction and excellent camera work. The same can be said about the audio - clear and easy to understand with a backing piano track that not only demonstrates onscreen action, but also mood.
The performances from our two leading characters are also handled very well. Never going over the top and at the same time not underplayed. Hui and Chamo could be real people, living real lives - and I'm sure that's the point. I can't think of any moment that felt out of place and even more pleasant? The supporting cast had no problems either. Sometimes, a lot of times actually, the supporting cast can either become overbearing, or are just simply... bad. Not the case in this film, everything felt in place and real. An achievement not just for a low budget film, but any film at all.
At the end of the day, "Out Of Place" was pretty damn good. It was entertaining, it looked great, but most of all it had a message backing it. Perhaps one of the more interesting traits is the fact that Shen never tries to overly solve the problems of the characters in the film, rather just demonstrate them - bringing them into the light of the camera. No matter how you slice it, this was time well spent. An easy four stars.