After the unemployed Zach (Steve Petersen) breaks up with his cheating girlfriend Rachael (Jacqueline Malenke), he retreats into the world of used books for solace. While perusing in one shop, he comes across a book with a black cover, no title and almost nothing on the inside. Intrigued, he buys the book. As he toils along with life’s daily challenges, he finds that the book is slowly filling up with quotes and other motivational insights to help him on his way.
Playing the role of a modern day fairy tale without an ounce of cynicism in its blood, Alex Gardels’ short film Used Books is whimsically charming. Sure, in this case it appears to be a magical book helping Zach survive his own life, but it’s not that hard to remember times when the right book, at the right time, made all the difference in the world. It’s a welcome memory, making me appreciate even more the message that the film is conveying (or at least the message I’m projecting on to the film as conveying).
While the film doesn’t linger or stumble, and works at its current pace, I am still in the camp that short films should be short and, pressing up against 18 minutes, Used Books strains that a bit. That said, while it feels a little bit longer than it needs to be, I’d also be hard-pressed to tell you where it could use a trim, or what could be removed. I’m simply going by gut feeling on this one, so take that for what it is.
In the end, Used Books is a fine film that I appreciated for both its positive nature and its professional execution. It’s easy to get caught up in the ugly and negative aspects of narratives when indulging in the world of independent film, so when an optimistic short is able to find its footing in such a cynical realm, the result tends to be extremely refreshing. This short brought a smile to my face, and I’m appreciative.
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