Joseph Arnone’s A Peace of Autumn tells the story of graffiti artist Kora (Daniella Alma) and war veteran Cliff (Joseph Arnone), a pair of strangers who strike up a friendship one evening after Kora is robbed. Both haunted by pasts they’re not easily convinced into sharing, the two go back and forth with both their fascination, and mistrust, of one another.
It’s weird that a film as long as this is, just under twenty minutes for a short, feels rushed and forced, but it does. While we eventually get outspoken explanations about why Kora is drawn to Cliff, it’s more explained than felt by what we see or experience. Perhaps if they both had expressed their reasons for continuing their friendship sooner, or we were given even more opportunity to see them naturally engage each other, it wouldn’t have felt so rushed.
Then again, maybe the answer is more extreme in the other direction. Because the general mood is an ominous calm, despite actions on screen, there’s a relaxation that occurs that makes the audience expect that all elements to come will be more drawn out. Thus, when narrative points come swiftly, or seemingly non-existent tensions suddenly erupt, it feels out of place; maybe if the film committed to a more frenetic style and pace, it’d lose the current tone, but maybe find a different balance that works in a wholly unique way.
Obviously that’s all theoretical, and mostly me thinking out loud about how conflicted I am about this short film that really isn’t that short, but feels too fast to be effective. It’s a strange place to land as a viewer. I think the performances are strong in small moments, but they seem undercut by the need to drive an at-times subtle narrative forward.
Subtle until the final minutes, that is. The film turns on a development seemingly out of nowhere, and one that challenges credulity, both in what happens and the immediate aftermath. I’m not saying I know how the film should have ended, but I sure didn’t expect the film to go the route it does.
In the end, I think A Peace of Autumn has all the building blocks in its core for a tempered boil of a drama. The characters are interesting enough, even on the surface, to deserve more time and development. Allowed more time to breath, perhaps as a feature, it could come together with a measured pace and carefully revealed character growth and developments. As a short, though, it feels too quick an experience; too forced a narrative.
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