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By Mark Bell | February 8, 2014

Kevin (Kenny Pedini) is in a bit of a dilemma, and he’s hoping his co-worker AJ (Andy Jennison) will help him figure out what to do. It turns out that Kevin found a Dallas Cowboys duffel bag in his tool shed, left there by his landscaper Charlie. It’s a personal affront due to Kevin’s loyalties to the New York Giants, so at first Kevin sees it as a nuisance but, upon opening it, things take a turn for the strange. Inside is roughly $180,000, an Anna Nicole Smith blow-up doll and a note to Charlie.

Kevin doesn’t know what to do, and AJ isn’t necessarily the most help. As the two brainstorm scenarios surrounding the bag, the narrative advances as Charlie finally gets in contact with Kevin. From there, things just get more surreal, all while Kevin and AJ hang out at work.

In a medium best known for “show, not tell,” Peter Blackmann’s short Charlie’s Bag is all about the conversation. When we’re not watching Kevin and AJ chat amongst themselves, we’re usually taking on the role of eavesdropper as Kevin talks on the phone with everyone from Charlie, to his wife, to the cops. Somehow it’s entertaining.

Much develops in the story of the mysterious bag, but we never see any of it. We only know what happens as the two main characters learn of it, usually through phone calls or conversation. It’s an exercise in restraint all around; even the conversations are calm, considering the amount of money sitting in the bag.

But it works in almost the same way a good campfire story works. It’s all in the telling, and while you can’t hold any moments up for their impressive flash or bombast, it’s a soothing experience nonetheless. In any other film, the story would devolve into action or mystery cliché and intrigue, but here the film is steadfast in its endeavor to treat the odd as a curiosity to muse about, but nothing to get too worked up over.

Ultimately, Charlie’s Bag is a short where nothing happens, and yet some of the most strangely fantastical things occur. It’s co-worker conversation, sans the water cooler, about incredible developments that seem to be intriguing to those on screen, but not so much as to actually act on anything; at least not until after work.

In the meantime, the audience becomes like a third co-worker in the room, listening in, just as interested. It shouldn’t work as well as it does, but it’s all about the execution and the commitment to the idea, and it excels it its normalization of its narrative strangeness.

This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.

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