REVIEW: Stutterer [2015]

Score: 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½


Rating: NR | Runtime: 12 minutes | Release Date: 2015 (UK)
Studio: Bare Golly Films
Director(s): Benjamin Cleary
Writer(s): Benjamin Cleary

“I’m calling about my bill”

We all have something about us to be embarrassed about. Some have more than one. While most see it as a major distraction no one could ever endure, however, this is rarely the case. Or at least with those you’d want to be around anyway. Few things in this arena are worse than stuttering—some might even say deafness and blindness are easier to cope with because they are definitive. You cannot speak or you cannot see; there’s no sense of deficiency. To stutter is the opposite because it carries a stigma of being able to do something but not as well. In your mind you feel you’re a burden, your audience’s frustration seemingly your fault. So why not just stay quiet?

This is the burden of writer/director Benjamin Cleary‘s Stutterer. His name is Greenwood (Matthew Needham) and he loves words. He’s a typographer—in other words a letterpress printer—who enjoys a game of Go with his father (Eric Richard) and keeps to himself otherwise, smoking cigarettes and eloquently guessing life stories of those around him for personal enjoyment within his own head. He’s intelligent and witty and desperate to help his fellow man if only he possessed the speed at which to do so before making things worse. His existence consists of work, imagination, and family. It’s solitary with one bright spot: Facebook Messenger friend Ellie (Chloe Pirrie). Life is manageable if not comfortable and then she announces a London visit with the prospect of meeting in-person.

It’s Greenwood’s worst nightmare. But why? We assume it’s his stutter and the long-cultivated insecurity against letting people witness his affliction. This is why he feigns deafness with strangers asking him directions. This is why he begins relationships online behind the wall of textual interaction. To think that way, however, is to assume Greenwood’s entire identity revolves around his handicap. Does Cleary give us reason to believe it doesn’t? No. But that’s intentional in order to set us up to fall prey to such close-minded simplicity like he knows we will. It’s deflection by omission and it’s perfectly orchestrated for his climactic revelation—one proving infinitely more about him than her if you peer underneath the surface.

Stuttering is a burden. Do you own it and become stronger as a result or let it own you only to find yourself too scared to unleash it upon the world? Does stuttering make you an introvert or are the two attributes unrelated? Do you avoid the world because you haven’t the time to watch it ostracize you or because it already has? Cleary provides his character a fully realized history in but twelve minutes of real estate by letting these questions sit hidden behind audience assumptions. And Needham dives deep to silently ask them so that we only realize once the answer is known. Many movies fail because they’re defined by their ending. Others excel because their ending reveals how deceivingly complex the rest truly was.


photography:
courtesy of Shorts HD

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