Sometimes high school student Jason (Tim Dougherty) seems more interested in skateboarding and hanging out with best friend Billy (Brad Miller) than being with his girlfriend Amy (Lily Zahn). Jason’s indifference begins to come into sharper focus, however, when a gay couple, Eric (Stefano Da Fre) and Darren (Grant Kretchik), move next store and Jason’s interest in the couple reveals more than just a casual curiosity.
What I truly appreciated about Ilay Ron’s short film Broken is how it presented a coming-of-age story of blossoming sexuality that could’ve easily devolved into a stereotypical melodrama in a number of different directions, and instead just delivered a straightforward tale. The dramatic triggers are all over the place in this one, and any one of them could’ve made this piece an entirely different experience, but the film sticks with the oft-ignored option of just letting things play out. It’s refreshing to see.
It actually puts the onus on the audience, and subtly makes you confront some of your own preconceived notions about where the narrative could or could not be going. Your reaction to innocuous moments in the film can reveal more about yourself than about the characters, and that’s not always going to be a comfortable experience (depending on that reaction). Again, the film sets up dramatic triggers, but which ones land rests entirely on the audience.
On the filmmaking side of the coin, the film looks quite good, with a strong eye for composition. The edit is strong, though I almost instinctively always question whether a short film that passes the twenty minute mark could be shorter and still be effective. Likewise, the music choices in the film are great, but I wouldn’t want to be in charge of figuring out, or paying for, the music licensing rights for this film.
Broken is a strong coming-of-age story that excels by not pushing all the dramatic buttons it could. Its restraint is its ultimate strength, and it’s the type of short film that I could see winning a film fest award or two (if its running time doesn’t trip up its programming chances too much). Overall, I appreciate that the filmmakers trusted the audience enough to just present a situation and let it be.
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