Aaron (Alex Hernandez) is a junkie, and his latest exploits for a fix have used up what little patience those around him were reserving for him. It’s bad enough that his girlfriend (Morgan Vasquez) has kicked him out, but even his drug dealer (Jonathan L. Black) is disgusted and done with him. Seriously, how bad has it gotten when your drug dealer doesn’t want your business anymore? Though, to be fair to the drug dealer, not like Aaron was making good on paying for his habit.
Jon Reino’s Downward definitely flirts with being a stereotypical downward spiral junkie film (yes, I’ve seen enough to think it can devolve into stereotypes), but it manages to salvage itself with the creative way in which it works with Aaron’s latest score; his life is suddenly on a loop, though with differing results as the same experience plays out randomly.
In that sense, the title of the piece points most precisely to exactly what we’re watching: a true downward spiral. It would make sense, as one spirals lower and lower, that their life would begin to loop in on itself and, as the spiral tightens toward oblivion, that loop would have to get more and more warped.
Ultimately, Downward is a play of strengths and weaknesses with a final result of somewhere in the middle. Not to say this is a mediocre film; it isn’t. More like in football when penalties offset resulting in a replay rather than a penalty. For as original a spin Downward utilizes in its tale of Aaron the junkie, I wanted something more from the ending than what I got.
Not to give anything away, but I was left with a feeling of, “And… so?” To the extent that I had invested in the figuring out the film prior, I felt a little too let off the hook by the final resolution. While I would admit that short filmmakers can often err on the side of ambiguity when they are unable to come up with a way to end a film, and that is a lazy method for masking an incomplete story, sometimes more ambiguity is warranted. In this case, I didn’t want a final answer to what was at the bottom of the spiral.
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