The simple irony of a crying clown is immediately provocative and one that is the catalyst for the drama in the 14 minute short film. Sad Clown delivers on its titular promise by giving us despondent merry maker (Jesse Frankson) looking into the mirror prior to a performance as his costars notice his downer of a face.
Set in a hazy world of backstage dressing rooms, flashbacks, and utter sorrow, the short film begins with our unhappy clown methodically painting his face for a performance. As the Ringmaster enters the room (Darrin Shaughnessy), he notices the clown has just painted three tear drops on his face, instead of a smile, a frown that would depress Pollyanna. Another performer notices the change and instead of asking what is happening, decides that “On with the show!” is the best way to act and quickly bolts.
“…a whimsical fantasy piece, a comedy, a dramedy, an expose on the trials of interpersonal relationships in a circus environment.”
Through the Ringmaster’s prodding and his demands that the clown repaint his face so as to bring joy, we learn what has caused this downer of a change. To be clear, I personally relished seeing a clown sad as hell because clowns are eaters of souls, small children, and they deserve to suffer. That isn’t the point though. We see that a clown’s heart can be broken, assuming a clown does have a heart. The short reveals itself to be a debate of living true to ones self, regardless of how it may benefit or harm others. Yes, this is one sad fucking clown.
Nicely produced, Sad Clown suffers from a tonal issue. It is a whimsical fantasy piece, a comedy, a dramedy, an expose on the trials of interpersonal relationships in a circus environment, but it can’t seem to find the perfect balance of all of those flavors that Tim Burton seems to shit out so effortlessly. Frankson’s Clown is endlessly sympathetic and we want to feel for him. But as the story continues we go from curious about his story to simply depressed. Despite the Ringmaster’s demands and brutality we end up being pulled down the depression rabbit hole too and then “POOF!” the film ends.
Sad Clown is a tiny vignette, hence the ambiguous review, that offers a dense mood of mysterious melancholy that isn’t so much a waste of time as it is a filler of it.
Sad Clown is VOD rental.
* Norm’s Rating System: Full Price (****), Matinee (***), VOD (**), Don’t Bother (*)