Stella Velon’s short film The Critic is the story of a young actress sitting for an interview that she will soon regret. Along with writing and directing, Velon also stars as the Actress, a lucky starlet coming off a huge award win.
The film opens with Stella preparing for an on-camera interview in her home with an influential critic. In reflection, she replays her “Best Actress” acceptance speech from days ago. It’s clear she beat the best in the business, and this is just her first leading role. Her tone is one of humility and gratitude.
From go, the Interviewer (Alan Smyth) immediately goes for the Actress’ vulnerable spot, her confidence. His questions are pointed, abrasive, almost as if he’s the prosecutor of the court of public opinion. He questions why she thinks as a first timer, she deserves the award over her long-suffering veteran peers. When she resists his attack, he comes back harder. The Interviewer accuses her award-winning performance as a drug addict as being too easy, because she once was one. He questions whether it was worth being her addiction and the loss of her boyfriend, all for the experience needed to win this award.
“His questions are pointed, abrasive, almost as if he’s the prosecutor of the court…”
Then the attacks step up to badgering as the Interviewer uses every response, every word she utters as a weapon against her. He verbally tears her down with condescension and self-doubt, questions her personal achievement, and pushes her to the edge in hopes of capturing the breakdown on camera.
Although titled The Critic, Velon’s tale is not about the asshole reporter manipulating his way to a story, but of the Actress. At first, she is attacked, psychologically assaulted, and broken down. When she is pushed into a corner, she gathers herself and valiantly fights back. But standing victorious in the fight is rarely the end. When the dust settles in her solitude, her mental and emotional exhaustion tempts her to go back to her old coping mechanisms of drugs and self-harm.
Velon’s performance is excellent and poignant in the end but probably won’t win her the actual award she won at the beginning of the short. And yes, the Interviewer was a little over-the-top aggressive to be an actual reporter, but then that wasn’t the point. Velon does what she needs to do with her short film by taking you on the actress’ journey. She grabs you from the start, establishes an emotional connection with the audience, and then straps you in on an emotional roller coaster ride.
The Critic (2018) Written and directed by Stella Velon. Starring Stella Velon, Alan Smyth, Todd Karner.
8 out of 10 stars