Director Matthew Johnson’s short film Heterochromia is a smart concept that doesn’t quite work as an experimental narrative, because it feels too academic and contrived. Sadly, most of Johnson’s actors can’t bail out Heterochromia— though Phil Garrelhas’ interpretation of the principal-character and storyteller, John Fallow, is very interesting.
In Johnson’s movie, John suffers from Heterochromia Iridum, where each of his eyes are a different color. He wears a black eye patch over his left eye for a good portion of the film, but on occasion, removes it to reveal an intensity that can be pretty alarming. John’s medical affliction enables him to experience different levels of existence. His favorite obsession is suicide, as a means of learning what’s on the other side. He and his friends also explore other perceptions of reality through a variety of drug-cocktails.
Occasionally in academically explorative projects of this nature, a love interest may help to make the film go down easier (pun sadly intended), but in this case, pretty girlfriend Aly (Jada Rifkin) is not overly helpful in that regard. Still, I don’t want to belittle Johnson’s ambitious cinematic vision, because it’s a wonderful one. I’m a great fan of investigating alternate realities— both philosophically and through film and storytelling. After all, why assume what we readily see and hear is all there is. Right?
I think if I had to find one aspect of the film that suffocates the rest, it would be too much voiceover. And though Phil Garrelhas has vocal tones that are truly amazing, an over abundance of V.O. makes for pontification— and that only makes me feel like I’m back at school.
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