Hernan Carballo, Sammi Shearing
Hernan Caraballo, Sammi Shearing
If there's one thing I really gleaned watching "Photographs" it's this. Obsession really can be a stones throw from murder. Even serial murder. As can a mental breakdown. It makes complete sense when you stop and consider certain things. Being obsessed can easily create a feeling of ownership and in some instances, even cause the obsessed person to become protective. Maybe that doesn't sound all that bad, until things go awry. It's at this point that potentially protective and violent behavior, can shift onto the victim themselves. It's at this point things can get really, truly ugly.
It's at this point you may be wondering how this all relates to this film - and let me tell you reader, what I've written above essentially sums up Hernan Carballo and Sammi Shearing's film. "Photographs" is pretty much all about obsession. Obsession, mental wellness and the abuses that can occur in a relationship. Jealousy is a powerful emotion and like obsession is never a far walk from murder, jealousy can be pretty damn close to obsession. This film follows the progression from infatuation, to love to obsession and yes, even to murder. It's all here, in glorious low budget technicolor.
Danni and Ethan meet up in a friends bar and although a little clumsy, they hit it off. Although Danni is warned by their mutual friend Dave, that Ethan can be a little unstable, she goes for it anyhow. With this, a new coupling is born. It's then, that things slowly begin to take a downturn however, because Ethan is kind of a piece of shit. At first. The rest of the film follows the couple as they separate and Ethan tried to get help. Can Danni trust him again? Could anyone with abusive tendencies, both verbal and physical, ever really be trusted again? Oh, by the way, I should also mention that a killer is on the prowl. One that seems to target anyone considered a threat to Danni - among other things. Could this killer be Ethan? There is the matter off those photographs - of what looks to be a dead girl, found within Ethans's belongings. Hmmmm...
If you're not interested in the technical babble that follows, skip down to the end of this write-up - but for those interested, be warned. "Photographs" is a low budget film. There will be no mistaking this for any form of multi million dollar thriller. However, there's a lot going on here that makes "Photographs" easily a film deserving of your time. The story may be nothing terribly new, but it's good enough to keep you interested. The little twist that happens in the final act may also not be totally surprising, but again, it's done well enough to create that a-ha moment. I especially appreciated that little bit of misdirection thrown within the film - and the teeny hints throughout that hint at a certain persons total breakdown. Nicely done.
However, certain aspects of this film were at times, a little weak. I personally didn't like the flashback method. It kind of ruined the chance to get to know the leading characters. A standard, linear approach would have been better suited - I think anyhow.
Another aspect that kept bothering me was some of the dialog. Specifically, but not limited to, the use of Danni's name. As an indie film, I always expect a certain amount of B factor present, within the acting. Perhaps a little hollow, or slightly scripted sometimes. But in "Photographs" the acting felt a little more scripted than some - and I don't attribute that to the cast portrayals. I attribute it to the script itself. There are a few different examples I could use, but everyone's constant name dropping, towards Danni, is what floats to the top of my head. When I'm talking to people I know, I don't generally call them by their first name all the time. I know their name, and so do they. Maybe in a crowded room, if I want to get someones attention, I'll call out their name. But not alone in a room with them, or when already speaking with them. You could watch this film, and play a drinking game at the same time. Every time one of the actors calls Danni by name, take a shot. You'll be drunk within fifteen minutes, and completely hammered before the film hits the halfway mark. Yes, it's really that much.
Moving on to the camera and audio... there's not really much to write. It's pretty standard indie fare, but the audio is, in fact, above average. There were a few instances of sync problems, but nothing over the top. The editing was decent enough, save the choice to start the film in flashbacks, and the general acting overall - except the Danni name thing, wasn't all that bad. I did find myself wondering how this film would have turned out, minus the killer aspect, and was strictly a flick about relationship abuse. But that train of thinking is neither here nor there.
When it's all said and done, "Photographs" was a decent enough film. Maybe not the next Oscar winner, but good enough to make me feel like it was time well spent. At the end of the day, finishing a decent low/no budget film is hard. Finishing one that is worthy of an audience is so much harder. Not every movie needs to be amazingly ground breaking to be good. Sometimes we all just want to watch something to get us out of our own heads for a while. And, if a film makes you think a little bit... even better. A solid three stars.