Closure is an important part of the grieving process. A process that is not only meant as a final goodbye for the surviving family and friends, but also a way to kick start the healing process. Things are slow moving, and those people who remain may never quite get over their loss, but the side effects for not grieving can be catastrophic. So as Barry packs up to spread his husband's ashes across a beautiful landscape, we come to realize that straight out of the gate, "Souls" promises to be a mentally somber experience. And why shouldn't it be? Barry is presented to us as a solitary man of sorts, so why shouldn't such a deeply personal task be a private one - and why is someone already at his husband's favorite spot? Why is this man apparently all set to end his own life - by jumping from the cliff? Although we never get any of these answers from Dan Gage's short film, the setup and circumstances are really not important to the story. This isn't a film about the journey or the events of either characters story... rather a tale of healing and hope. The history of both of these characters is mostly irrelevant. More for the jumper, but you get the idea. It's the present that matters and maybe, just maybe... the future. "Souls" tries to hide it somewhat, but what I got out of this film was a subtle message, hidden deep within the overt context of the movie. Everything happens for a reason. Even the most dreadful of events can, and usually do, lead to something of importance. Had Barry's husband not died, there would be no reason to be on that mountain. Had Barry not been on that mountain... well reader, you get the idea. It's not my job to write out my views on destiny, or the value of one life over another. That's something for people far smarter than I to debate. Yet, I can't help but wonder about these potential meanings that realistically, are probably all in my head. It does make for a deep short film and one thing is for sure, I surely can't complain about that.
Despite my theoretical ramblings up above, on hidden meanings and maybe/what-if questions, "Souls" does have a story that takes place in the moment. The simple version? Man encounters another who is contemplating ending his life. Through his action, or more precisely, inaction, Barry manages to save another human being. These fleeting moments are showcased beautifully and any theories on what happened before, or happens after, are up to the viewer to decide. More importantly? From a production point of view, this is all the more impressive considering "Souls" is a silent film. All of what you see, and hypothesize about, is achieved with no dialog at all. It's all done using excellent camera work, a great eye for small details, and good performances from the cast. All wrapped up with a polished edit and fitting score. Paul Barber and Paul Casar somehow manage to convey so much, with no dialog at all. I gotta say, that's impressive. Combine that with everything else I mentioned above... well... you get the idea.
The only true drawback I noticed was that "Souls" really is a film for the interested. The casual viewer simply may not get it. Let me explain. Without reading the description, all the small hints of story within the production are just that... hidden. You truly have to see the little details. Be looking for them even. Sure, a lot of it is covered when you read the synopsis... but a lot of people don't read the descriptions. They expect to be given the story as they watch. In a clear way. It just so happens I watch a lot of movies, and look for the little details. Casual viewers do not. For them, there is just enough here to get the bare basics. A start, middle and an end. Yet all the details that make this a "great" film may be lost on all but the most picky, and dedicated viewers. This is a really small complaint however, when you consider all the positive aspects of this film. Never the less, I noticed... so I expect others will as well.
When you consider what was achieved in such a short span of time, and with no dialog, "Souls" is a winner. Hands down. Something to enjoy at face value, and for those interested and paying attention, debate about after the fact. It will be available on iTunes in the very near future - and we'll update links at that time. For now, feel free to visit and keep up to date. Links are posted. A solid four stars.