Michael (Devon Goffman) is rudely awakened to find himself strapped to a chair and gagged. Across from him is another man, Javier (Juan Carlos Hernandez), who proceeds to calmly talk to Michael as two henchmen wheel in a tray of surgical tools. As Michael looks on in dread, Javier settles in to a story about his childhood.
Michael & Javier is a perfect example of keeping it simple and allowing the actors’ performances to power the film. The performance of Juan Carlos Hernandez as Javier is not to be missed, and dangerously hypnotic. As Michael learns, time with Javier is like making eye contact with a cobra right before it strikes.
It’s an acting clinic, and I could easily watch Juan Carlos Hernandez for another twenty five minutes. In fact, I got so entranced with the performance that the film seems to race by and, when it was all over, I wanted more. Because we finally get an idea of why Michael is a captive audience to Javier, and I want to know what comes next.
And while I definitely think the film’s strength rests in the performance, that doesn’t mean the rest of the film is just coasting by. It looks and sounds great, and is at a relaxed pace that is as calming as it is eerily uncomfortable. The only issue I had was some confusion over what exactly happens to Michael near the end of the film (something violent and bloody, though it isn’t obvious what the injury is). Ultimately it doesn’t matter, but it was the one notable moment where I checked out of the flow of the film for a second.
“Michael & Javier” is a performance-driven powerhouse of a short film, and it shows what can be accomplished with a simple premise and the right cast. This is predominantly two men in a room, with only one of them speaking, and yet it is incredibly entertaining. A powerful piece of filmmaking, powered by an astounding performance.
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