On the verge of his band’s big tour, Avery (Brian Bernys) loses the love of his life when his girlfriend Izzy (Eve Everette) dies unexpectedly. Mourning and lost, the band’s prospects fall apart as drummer Lee (Bryan Patrick Stoyle) pushes for Avery to get over his loss and bassist Brandon (Jake Albarella) stands behind his best friend Avery. The band separates, and Avery’s life heads into a full-blown tail spin as he moves in with Brandon and his wife Wendy (Diane Curley), barely living and creatively stifled.
After Wendy reaches her breaking point with the lost and damaged Avery, he responds to a classifieds ad designed to entice those who are hopeless and desperate. The ad leads Avery to an office building, where a “No Talking” sign informs all to be silent, and eventually Avery finds his way to a dark room housing a notebook, a pen and a card asking, “Why are you here?”
Avery writes his answer in the notebook, leaves and, once back home, suddenly finds his creative spark reignited, as he writes a song for the first time in a long time. Seeing a correlation, Avery begins returning to the office more and more, all while Wendy and Brandon try to figure out how long they can support someone who still seems so lost. But in whose interest is the notebook, really?
Anthony Vescio’s Granted is a technically proficient feature film with engaging performances. The premise is an interesting one, and the exploration of grief and loss a universal subject we can all relate to at some point or another.
My main criticism is one of character arc and development. Mainly, there isn’t much in here. Once the dynamics are set after the death of Izzy, little changes. Brandon is overly supportive, Wendy is supportive but less tolerant than her husband and Avery is still wrecked over Izzy. Even when he starts getting the things he asked for in the room, it doesn’t change him so much as just change what he’s capable of doing. I’m not saying Avery has to get over his loss; everyone grieves in their own way, and who am I to say when enough is enough. But he can grieve and grow, and those around him can too. Instead, by the end, maybe they know where each other is coming from a little better, but it doesn’t really change much.
So, unfortunately, this lends itself to a feeling of repetition and narrative bloat. You wind up putting your hope for the success of the story on the explanation of what the room is, or what it represents. Ultimately though, for me, those answers were disappointing and, again, very little changes as far as character development goes.
But here’s the thing, while I think the lack of true character growth plagues this story as written regardless, I do think this is the sort of tale that has a premise and ambiguity that could work in a shorter format. In a quicker bite, as a short film, the premise of the room itself perhaps becomes more of the focus and star, the emotional aspects are allowed to fill the rest of the space and the impact of the lack of character development is lessened. As a feature, though, it feels like things are stretched too thin, and the space is opened up, but nothing moves in to fill it.
I don’t want you to think that my belief that this would make a stronger short film is based on running time though; this is not one of those films that feels too long or lacks tight pacing in the edit. This is strictly a comment on the narrative’s shortcomings being less obvious in a shorter format that can take advantage of the premise and a bit of ambiguity. Maybe in a shorter format, the emotion and sentiment intended is more powerful when you don’t have as much time to ponder it along the way.
Now, all that said, the pluses: the film looks and sounds great, employing a powerful style and aesthetic that at least makes the film interesting on the surface throughout. While I found myself waiting for the narrative to really throw something at me, I wasn’t disinterested or bored. On technical merit alone, this film goes up in my estimation. Overall, the filmmaking skills and chops are there and on display; I’d like to see the same group work with something a little stronger on the character and narrative side of things.
And that’s where I end up; Granted is technically sound and intriguing at first, entertaining enough throughout. Unfortunately it just didn’t come together for me and I wanted more from the character development than I got. Still a strong showing, however.
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