Directed by Hudson King and screenwriter Justin Solaiman, Ringloom begins with Halfine (Zoe Wiesner) meeting with a counselor in “the program” to explain why she’s decided to leave. However, as she begins to describe the nightmare keeping her from properly resting, reality and fantasy begin to crash together. Now, Halfine is unsure if what she’s seeing is happening or not. More importantly, though, can she discover the root of her torment and finally face it?
On paper, Ringloom might not sound like much, because really, what’s so exciting about a conversation between two people in one room? Well, that is where the genius of the filmmakers first pokes its head in. Of course, the nightmare is visualized, but even before then, when Halfine is just in the conference room, the directors take great care in crafting an ominous atmosphere. Cutaways to a bucket catching water, plants strewn about, or even empty chairs add a layer of intrigue at both their symbolism and if this reality or her dream. This duality is carried well throughout and makes for an engaging mystery.
While only running 14 minutes and six seconds, the short packs a lot in. Themes of trauma and forgiveness, the bonds of friendship, and how everyone in our lives shapes who we become are all present to one degree or another. The sheer ambition of everything the filmmakers attempt is audacious, but thanks to a strong screenplay, it all works.
“…Halfine is unsure if what she’s seeing is happening or not.”
What doesn’t work as well is the setting, specifically, “the program.” I’m not joking when I state that plot synopsis on IMDb actually gives more context and details about this “program” than anything in the movie. It’s only ever called “the program,” and what she’s studying to do or learn in it makes is never expanded upon. I watched Ringloom twice and still cannot piece it together. Now, this works a bit by adding to the sense of intrigue at play, but it does cause some confusion during the scenes set in reality.
However, Zoe Wiesner’s jaw-dropping performance carries audiences through the bumps. While she shares the screen with two people, much of the narrative is shouldered by her, and she commands every second of the film. With only a handful of shorts to her name right now, Wiesner is poised to be a breakout star once she lands that one big role, and based on her acting here, she deserves every bit of success once she finds it.
Ringloom is an engaging mystery with fantastic, bold visuals that are haunting. The huge canvas of themes and the ambition on display are admirable, so even when the worldbuilding stumbles and confuses, viewers are still compelled to finish the film. Add in Wiesner’s brilliant, heartbreaking lead performance, and you are left with an almost perfect movie.
"…an engaging mystery with fantastic, bold visuals..."