If I were forced to break down the primary elements of a short film, I’d divide it into story, acting, and production (Clearly, I have no academic background to justify this). Ideally, a filmmaker should strive for excellence in all three areas, but that doesn’t always happen. And as they say, “Rules are meant to be broken.” An excellent story can sometimes overcome bad acting and problematic production issues. Or excellent acting…and so on.
I present you Andrew Walsh’s short film, I Miss The War. Three sisters, Annie (Hannah Gott), Charlotte (Sarah Golding), and Stella (Laura Vine) gather at their family home for the annual memorial of the passing of their mother. The sisters are joined by Annie’s husband, Ray (Kyle Webb) and Stella’s new surprise husband, Adrian (James Barr).
I Miss The War opens with Annie berating a recently broken refrigerator as it has just ruined the meal she prepared for her sisters. It’s not only the broken refrigerator that frustrates Annie, but it’s also her life in general as a struggling actress. But Ray is there to provide comfort and support.
After a brief session of lovemaking, sister Charlotte arrives to partake in the annual tradition. She has a brooding personality with a nice big chip on her shoulder. A healthy handful of narcotics takes the edge off of Charlotte’s dour demeanor.
“…gather at their family home for the annual memorial of the passing of their mother.”
Finally, Stella arrives, returning from a trip traipsing across Europe, where she met and married Ray along the way.. Stella and Adrian are deadbeat hippie-types and plan to move in with Annie and start a family. Annie and Charlotte are not happy to have the news of their nuptials sprung on this auspicious day
Like all good stories of family, dysfunction abounds and the somber feelings reflecting on mom turn into a shout fest as all the sisters’ pent-up emotions and petty conflicts bubble to the surface. Soon everyone turns on each other to a dramatic conclusion.
Let’s quickly evaluate the three elements of this short film. Starting with production, I Miss The War has a lot of problems, and they are easily solvable with standard video editing software on the market and a little elbow grease. Here’s the quick list: lighting is desperately needed to bring a consistent look from one shot to the next. There are some severe color problems. Good lighting also helps in the color correction process. The audio is inconsistent too with minor ADR synching issues and one scene where Annie’s ADR didn’t make it at all. Lastly shot composition needs serious help thanks to some odd framing choices.
“…Walsh’s script establishes the three sisters and husbands as distinct characters.”
Moving to acting. The acting all around is a little rough. It’s decent, yet inconsistent, especially from the men. While some dialogue felt natural, a lot of it felt scripted, i.e., reciting lines versus speaking conversationally. I must stress the importance and value of rehearsing, rehearsing, and more rehearsing.
Finally, the story is probably the strongest of the three elements. Writer/director Walsh’s script establishes the three sisters and husbands as distinct characters. He then slowly reveals what happened to mom and how it affected each sister individually. After the blow-up, he methodically captures the emotional aftermath of that event long ago. I Miss The War feels like the first act of your standard three-act play and ends with enough interest to see what happens next for this family.
In the final analysis, Walsh’s excellent story is not able to overcome the problems with production and acting. The good news is the problems are fixable, even for a filmmaker living on modest means. It requires some intermediate to advanced post-production skills or finding someone who has them. In other words, it needs more effort and time. Welcome to the next level of professional filmmaking.
I Miss The War (2018) Written and directed by Andrew Walsh. Starring Hannah Gott, Sarah Golding, Laura Vine, James Barr, Kyle Webb.
4 out of 10 stars