In Percival’s Big Night, Percy (Tommy Nelms) has decided that he is finally going to change his life, starting by asking out Chloe (Sarah Wharton), one of his drug dealing roommate Sal’s customers. When the evening begins to line up favorably for Percy, with Chloe indeed planning on dropping by for some weed, Percy convinces Sal (Jarret Kerr) to let him handle the sale. Thus the stage is set, as Percy awaits Chloe’s eventual arrival with her friend Riku (Angelica Reeve), and Sal hides in Percy’s room, pretending to be ill.
Percival’s Big Night is a film about dialogue and conversation, entirely taking place in one location, Sal and Percy’s apartment. The camera floats like a fly in the room, and the film flows smoothly from opening to end. Still, it’s not a film of false moments or “celebrate my wit” dialogue, it’s the portrayal of one particularly eventful evening by four strong actors buoyed by a great script.
It was about 5 minutes into the film before I noticed, waitaminute, they haven’t done any cut-aways, and everything has been a single shot. After the film ended, I read a bit more about the film online and found out that while the film was shot in roughly 15 minute chunks, they did a masterful job of editing it in a way to where it is not obvious, and it instead does appear to be one continuous shot for the entire film.
Now, I tell you this not to applaud some gimmick (if it were just some gimmick, I wouldn’t have had to do research about it because the potential marketing value of it would likely be shoved down my throat), but to give even more credit to the actors onscreen for delivering top performances within such a creative choice and environment. Even if it were cut into 15 minute chunks, that’s 15 minutes where the actors have to deliver their best and hit all the lines without it seeming unnatural, and it deserves special note.
The emotional, and sometimes physical, minus of the single-shot aesthetic is that it leads to a very confined and sometimes claustrophobic experience for the viewer. The apartment is not a big one, and by the time four people are involved and conversations become heated or dramatic, there’s almost no escape. I felt like I was wedged in a corner of the room, with no way to break the tension. It leads to a heightened experience but it can also be a very draining one. By the time the film ended, I was happy to no longer be hanging with these characters. Not that they’re bad people, but it all just got so exhausting and inescapable.
William C. Sullivan’s Percival’s Big Night is a wonderful example of what one can do with the right creative choices, one location, some splendid actors and a quality script. It’s a compelling independent film economically and efficiently delivered in memorable fashion.
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