Please Respond Image

Please Respond

By Jordan Bond | February 7, 2024

Drawing heavy inspiration from the likes of True Detective and the work of David Fincher, Please Respond is a noir true crime psychological thriller complete with late-night diner chats and a chain-smoking detective. The film, written and directed by Addison Chapman, opens with a crude amateur video recording on a laptop in which a guy is holding a piece of paper with the words “PLEASE RESPOND PLEASE RESPOND” scribbled on it. Detectives Edgar (Chandler Balli) and Howard (Keith Kinsey) stand over the laptop, trying to decipher the message.

One after another, victims are found accompanied by an image or video taken before their death of them holding a sheet of paper with that phrase written all over it. The detectives search for answers as the body count continues to rise. Who is committing these heinous acts, and why?

I could be wrong, but it appears that this was made using an iPhone. For a film that looks like it was entirely shot on a tiny computer that fits in a pocket, there are plenty of creative compositions that keep Please Respond from looking repetitive. Interesting shots married with the black and white color grading create some often striking monochromatic frames. It wasn’t all that long ago that every film was black and white out of necessity; however, now, such a stylistic choice sometimes runs the risk of being gimmicky. In this case, the black and white works well in setting a dark, moody tone. Plus, the soundtrack is moody and rhythmic, creating a rich background for this detective noir tale.

“…victims are found accompanied by an image or video taken before their death…”

Balli channels his best Matthew McConaughey as he obsessively seeks answers in the case while relentlessly sucking down cigarettes faster than he can light them. Kinsey is the more laid-back. In their police cruiser, across the table at a diner, or at the crime scene, these two are constantly debating each other’s theories for motivations behind the case.

However, there are technical issues that hinder the experience. The worst problem Please Respond has is the audio. While the soundtrack is cleverly composed and suits the movie, audio recordings of character dialogue can be occasionally hard to hear. I had to put on headphones and turn the volume all the way up in some scenes to listen to what was being said, and on a couple of occasions, I still didn’t make it out.

This movie generally feels longer than necessary. Scenes are often drawn out with little plot development. Most of the narrative relies on banter between the detectives. Their exchanges feel forced most of the time and rarely add much to the story. Given the scarce plot, this would’ve worked better as a short rather than a feature.

Stylistically, there are plenty of good elements to point to, but a strong plot is missing to prop up those elements. I appreciate what Chapman strives for with Please Respond. I encourage her to continue making movies, as potential is evident here. With a more developed plot and a cleanup of the technical problems, Chapman might produce a hidden gem.

Please Respond (2023)

Directed and Written: Addison Chapman

Starring: Chandler Balli, Keith Kinsey, Addison Chapman, Scott Copelan, Trevor Martin, etc.

Movie score: 6/10

Please Respond Image

"…late night diner chats and a chain-smoking detective"

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