Ben Wilson’s Three Prayers is a tough short film to reconcile, mainly because it throws quite a bit at you without any context and, often, without you knowing who is who. It is for that reason that I’m going to have to skip the normal “synopsis paragraph,” as it were, because the film is presented more as a series of moments, conversations or thoughts more so than something with an overarching plot.
Which isn’t to say that the pieces aren’t connected. There are definitely themes pertaining to God, religion, faith, birth and death that run through all aspects of the film, particularly if you watch it more than once. “Layered” would be the way to look at it. At first watch, things don’t seem to make the most sense all the time, but at least there are a few re-appearing characters whose names you catch, and whose story is more obvious. A second visit, however, reveals more connections between the parts than you may’ve caught the first time around.
Of course, not everyone will have the opportunity to see the film multiple times, so to take it as a singular experience, I’d suggest approaching it like a series of visual poems, or maybe thematic essays. That might help your mind enjoy the experience over trying to process what it all means or where it is going. Because it’s not really going anywhere. Again, captured moments.
That said, its more artistic leanings and narrative aside, it still has its flaws. In one scene, for example, a character sings the praises of Daniel (Benjamin Doerner), a kid who videotapes church testimonials, by informing him repeatedly that, “You really have an amazing gift.” And when I say repeatedly, I mean it. If a drinking game existed where you took a shot based on the number of times that phrase, or “amazing” or “gift,” is dropped within that sequence, you’d be hospitalized.
Beyond that, Three Prayers is more than competent in its look and sound, and it really comes down to whether you have the patience for a film that is a little less straightforward than the norm. Some could dismiss it completely, I’m sure, but I think there’s something in there. I just don’t think they made it easy for you to find it, but maybe it’s in the search that the true value lives.
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