Films have a way of confronting our comfortable lives with heavy subjects and addressing it through a visual narrative, as opposed to some heavy-handed lecture. In L. Marcus Williams’ Lifeline, he confronts us with the subject of suicide. Chances are you’ve either thought about suicide or know someone who has.
Lifeline opens with a young woman (Katlin Leslie) staring at a bottle filled with her depression medication. The short then fades to a phone call between that woman and Ray (Dan Parilis), who happens to be on duty that evening at a suicide hotline. The woman tells Ray that she’s planning on committing suicide by overdosing on her medication. She called the hotline because she needed to say goodbye to someone. And in the case of Ray, someone she didn’t know personally. Ray is there to talk her down, but more to listen. Eventually, the tables are turned on Ray.
“The woman tells Ray that she’s planning on committing suicide by overdosing…”
Williams’ short film about suicide has two elements working in its favor. First, is how his story forces you to ask, “What would I do?” in this situation. On three occasions in my life, I was woken by a midnight phone call and on the other end was a friend/loved one ready to end it all. You’re never prepared for that phone call and you never have the right thing to say. Williams presents a typical/atypical call on the hotline. Listen and empathize is what Ray is trained to do.
Secondly, Lifeline features two powerful, yet subtle performances from Katlin Leslie and Dan Parilis, the only actors in this short. The conversation feels authentic, but its power comes not in what is said, but in the tight close-ups on the face of both Katlin and Dan. The close-ups capture every tear from Katlin and every facial tick of Dan as he fights to control his emotions. The story comes to a head in a long moment of silence as the camera locks in tight on their faces, refusing to move off of its two subjects. The visual speaks volumes.
The best thing I can say about Lifeline is its simple approach to a volatile situation. The cinematography is stunning with its duotone approach to style. The narrative never gets overly emotional to the point of melodrama, and its conclusion is real without ever resorting to melodrama.
Lifeline (2018) Written and directed by L. Marcus Williams. Starring Katlin Leslie, Dan Parilis.
8 out of 10 stars