Peters Rd is only the third film from writer-director Frances Rose Padunan. While there are minor issues here and there, the short mystery proves that the filmmaker is interested in taking audiences on a thrilling ride while still presenting a layered, emotional story. She gets considerable help from the isolated snowy setting, beautifully captured by the three directors of photography: Tony Dare, Bryelle Gaviola, and Justin Semana. But just what makes the movie so good?
Peter (Aaron McLaughlin) regains consciousness after having been in a terrible accident. He’s bloodied and seriously wounded but is not concerned about himself at the moment. See, his significant other, Katherine (Taylor Kilgore), was with him and is now missing. Finding her is of the utmost urgency as she’s eight months pregnant. Peter gets help from a kind stranger, Sky (Thomas Fullerton), who drives him down the winding roads as the man searches for his lost love. Why does everyone Peter encounters run away? Where could Katherine have gone?
Let’s get the negatives of Peters Rd out of the way now. First, it is not too hard to figure out where this 26-minute odyssey is heading. Within the first 10 minutes, I correctly guessed the “twist,” if one could call it that. Mind you, it makes perfect sense story-wise and is well-handled, but for a mystery, it is not all that… well, mysterious.
“Katherine was with [Peter] and is now missing.”
The other negative is the acting. Well, that’s not entirely accurate, as the cast is mostly good. But there are times where the dialogue seemed to be ADR’d to fill in gaps, or maybe the on-set audio was too distorted; who knows? The point is that these lines, which are clearly dubbed in, are spoken so quickly and awkwardly that they don’t land their intended emotional impact. For instance, Peter tells Sky that he knows he saw someone deep in these woods and goes to chase them. However, his insistence over what he saw doesn’t come across as desperate as it should. Instead, it appears the actor only had one minute to say all his lines before shooting was done for the day. This breathlessness robs the dialogue of emotion.
With that being said, such line problems only crop up every now and then. For the most part, the screenplay effectively lays out its characters, and the dialogue creates a true sense of intrigue. Minus those few rushed bits, the cast of Peters Rd acquit themselves rather well, especially at the end, which really does deliver in the feels factor much moreso than one might expect.
But the true stars of the show are the incredible, kinetic cinematography and the score by Yoshimitsu Awazu and Davide Perico. The camera glides over the snow-strewn lands as Peter chases voices only he can hear. Dare, Gaviola, and Semana visually put the audience in the same discombobulated, intense headspace as Peter, meaning every shot mirrors his emotional state perfectly. The musical compositions are the perfect complement to the striking visuals, as they too play on the uncertainty of what is or is not real. The short is simply breathtaking to behold because of these elements working in tandem.
Peters Rd might not have the most original story, and some of the dialogue recording is iffy. But, thanks to strong directing and a decent cast, the audience still invests in the main character’s plight. Due to exemplary cinematography and a rousing score, the mystery-thriller goes from above average to almost great, and anyone interested in mysteries or supporting indie productions would do well to seek the film out as soon as possible.
"…incredible, kinetic cinematography..."