Think back to the last time that you encountered one of those really annoying individuals who talks loudly and incessantly on their cell phone no matter what is going on around them and with no regard for anyone who may happen to be standing/walking/sitting close by. You could be in a video store, library, hospital, it really doesn’t matter, the person just keeps yammering on, usually using corporate lingo; “FYI, per my conversation with Bruce” or “I’ll CC you on the email and we’ll touch base after the conference”. Or perhaps it’s the person who shouldn’t even have a cell phone in the first place; “they don’t have it in blue do you want me to get yellow or turquoise” or “no, they don’t have ‘I, Robot’ should I get ‘7th Heaven Season One’ instead?” The type of person that, if you thought you would get away with it, you would grab their cell phone and bludgeon them with it. At the least, it’s an individual that you would not want to be stuck in an elevator with, especially during a natural disaster. That is exactly what happens in Domingo Vara’s “5ive”; for a good portion of the film anyway. In addition to being HIV positive, bike courier Eric (David Andriole) has the unfortunate luck of being caught in an earthquake and, in turn, stuck in an elevator with the excruciatingly self-centered and incomprehensibly annoying business man, Michael (Darryl Sims); in addition to a maid, who doesn’t live long anyway, and, of course, the obligatory pregnant woman, Jenny (Giovanna Brokaw). The earthquake occurs, the elevator stops on the 13th floor (with the exception of the occasional 10 foot drop for the sake of suspense), help does not seem to be on the way and there’s also a number of pesky after shocks. What does Michael do but call his secretary to bitch at her for letting an earthquake drag her away from the fax machine and telephone. He also proceeds to participate in a conference call, as the maid who lies three feet from him has a heart attack, all thanks to his handy cell phone, but, at last, the battery is dying. Needless to say there is a bit of tension among the ill-fated gang of passengers and this leads to some in-group bickering and out-and-out fighting, some of which involves a gun. The messy turmoil in the elevator is mixed with flashbacks that provide back-story and create a trace of sympathy for almost all of the characters; though not quite enough compassion to cause the average person to quit wishing Michael would shut-up even if by the force of death.
There have been so many small-story, central-location, no-budget, dialogue driven independent films popping up over the course of the past decade that perhaps the category deserves its own subdivision in independent film. “5ive” is such a story: one primary location, a tiny cast and a fairly narrow plot. The story itself is decent, but at times does seem a bit too much like an episode of ER; mostly due to inclusions like the exceedingly pregnant character. Some of the themes present within the movie are interesting, but their development is somewhat bland. The ending is by far the films weakest point. Without giving too much away (as the film is well worth a viewing), things are wrapped up a bit too nicely for the circumstances. Perhaps it is the case that the film would have benefited somewhat from following the lead of Chris Kentis (“Open Water”) by eliminating back-story, cut-aways, flashbacks and the like. Not that “Open Water” is, or should necessarily be, an ideal, but by far the strongest portions of “5ive” take place within the film’s central location and/or are specifically related to non-verbal narrative and character information. The majority of flashbacks only seem to degrade the plot and provide almost too much information. The acting in “5ive”, while at times lies a bit below mediocre, is at other moments surprisingly good and the direction is notable. Perhaps more than anything else, director Domingo Vara and writer Michael Lach do an excellent job at creating a truly unlikable character (Michael). “5ive” is a solid limited-location film and it will be interesting to see what Vara does with a bigger budget and, in-turn, a story that opens out and is less limiting. Overall, an excellent film whose largest criticisms stem from its potential to be even better.