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By Mark Bell | July 13, 2013

Recently dumped by his girlfriend, Josh (Jay Barnard) attends a party set up by his friend Nathan (Joe Slack). It is during the party where Josh, breaking the fourth wall, explains to us who he is, and that, due to his introverted nature, his emotions will be expressed via the claymation version of himself that is sitting next to him. Then he spies newcomer Sarah (Yazmin Daley), the two hit it off, and our tale of romance and angst is truly set.

Joe Slack’s short film, Love in Motion, has many things going against it, but much could be forgiven if the film had a solid story with strong dramatic conflicts. Unfortunately, it does not. In its fourteen minutes, it manages to hit almost every bad indie romance convention, and instead of creating something fresh with the form, reminds us why formulaic plotting can be so disappointing.

Sure, the claymation idea is the novelty here, but it is an idea introduced and then practically abandoned. So under-utilized is it, with only a few shots mixed here or there of similar animated reactions, that the filmmakers easily could’ve discarded it entirely. It doesn’t do anything for the film except make you wonder why it’s there, if it’s not going to be a bigger part of things.

Beyond that, the acting isn’t very good at all. Our lead, Jay Barnard, does have moments of relatable charisma, but more often is trying to force his way through dialogue and dramatic intention that doesn’t add up. Maybe a more seasoned actor could make up for the thinness of character, but it doesn’t happen here.

In reading the IMDb listing for the film, to make sure I got the cast names correct (end credits list the actors, but not who they played), it becomes clear that the entire production of this short film was under duress for a number of reasons (a brief aside: the horror stories of the production should not be more important than the plot; an explanation of everything that went wrong as an IMDb synopsis is not helpful for your film). Cast and crew disappeared at inopportune times and, like many indie films, the production had to severely adapt. This explains a lot; you can see how the different issues resulted in this final short.

However, all the production woes in the world don’t explain why the story itself isn’t stronger, the characters so poorly defined. It takes more than a montage (mostly of footage of the couple’s backs), and more than a mute claymation personification of repressed emotions, to establish true love in a story. The film proves that the filmmakers have absorbed indie romance or romantic comedy conventions to the point where they can recreate them, but clumsily and without any real dramatic heft.

In the end, Love in Motion is an amateurish short film regardless of what direction you look at it, and I mean that in what “amateurish” actually means; we all start out as amateurs, and experience and time are necessary to move us to the next stage. This feels entirely like a beginner filmmaking effort, a cinematic first draft, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

There’s much to improve on after this one, but the cinematic sensibilities are at least there. Some compositional choices didn’t work out, but at least choices were made. I may not have enjoyed the formula of the story, but at least the formula is known well-enough to be recreated (now, burn it). There’s promise and potential here, but it doesn’t pay off in this short film.

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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