TIFF14 REVIEW: Still [2014]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 16 minutes | Release Date: 2014 (Canada)
Studio: Canadian Film Centre
Director(s): Slater Jewell-Kemker
Writer(s): Slater Jewell-Kemker & Kaveh Mohebbi

“See? Told you everything would be fine.”

Co-written with Kaveh Mohebbi and directed by Slater Jewell-Kemker, the psychological science fiction Still is a captivating yarn I initially believed was done a disservice by being too short. I found myself wondering about these characters—Emily Piggford‘s Sadie and Giacomo Gianniotti‘s Jake—and what their dynamic was before getting stranded in the gorgeous snowy woods where he grew up. There’s definitely love between them despite his first interaction with her onscreen being a vicious slap to her face. Even so, when they reach an iced over pond, she can’t help but fear their impending demise. Whereas his falling into the freezing water can be construed as her escape, she can do nothing but mourn and wish he would somehow come back to her.

Then the impossible happens. In her state of shock Sadie begins to hear voices. We remember the words as hers, calls into the stillness for Jake before his moment of abuse. This time, however, her double is sneaked up upon and wrapped his arms. It’s the exact same circumstances as before only with pure love rather than tumultuous fear. His voice contains a playful lilt as he kisses Sadie #2 on the forehead and tells her everything is going to be alright. This Jake is the man Sadie #1 always wished hers would be and such a revelation inevitably brings up the possibility of her stealing him away. Caught in an unexplainable situation, there can be only one of her in the end so why not take what she deserves by any means necessary?

As far as her decision on this issue goes, Still does the job. My questioning its brevity instead came as a result of wanting to understand the sci-fi anomaly and why these two disparate couples co-exist. There’s definitely a cyclical nature to the proceedings wherein evidence of déjà vu proves more than just two variations are present in their time loop and I needed to know why. It didn’t take long, though, to realize I actually didn’t. In fact, Jewell-Kemker and Mohebbi precisely share exactly what’s necessary for this specific vignette of Sadie’s life. More would convolute things because the film is ultimately about her desire to achieve calm and safety, not why she’s been without it. And with a final note perfectly orchestrated tonally and visually, one extra second may have actually ruined its minimalist success.

courtesy of TIFF

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