REVIEW: Pearl [2016]

Score: 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½

Rating: NR | Runtime: 6 minutes | Release Date: April 17th, 2016 (USA)
Studio: Google Spotlight Stories
Director(s): Patrick Osborne

“There’s no wrong way home”

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the director of Pearl is also the man behind Oscar-winning Disney short Feast. Patrick Osborne for all intents and purposes has merely updated that previous look at a dog experiencing the tumultuousness of humanity around him to one capturing the bond between a father and a daughter as time turns love into a struggle before ultimately coming back full circle post-adolescence. The camera is again virtually set in one place, but it’s affixed to a locale rather than a character. And the whole is also set to a single song, the dialogue fading into the background so the power of lyrics passed down generation to generation can rise up and fill our hearts with the warmth of life.

While the simplicity of story’s progression remains consistent, however, the execution on this latest work brings it to a whole other playing field. This leap in technological advancement propels Pearl into the land of VR—making it the first of the format to be nominated for an Academy Award. We therefore become the camera, a stationary pivot point in the middle of the main characters’ hatchback so our heads can be on a constant swivel to see every angle. I don’t own a device necessary to watch it as intended, but luckily Google and YouTube have made it so you can grab the screen and spin it to your whim regardless. So as the song plays and time advances forward and in reverse, we see everything.

The journey demands your involvement as leaving the camera at a two-thirds angle to view the driver’s seat and backseat only is a disservice. Characters constantly move so that you must follow them around the car (when someone runs out), through the sunroof (to catch a firefly), or out the back as the red and blue glow of a police car flickers. And as the vehicle ages, so too does Sara (Nicki Bluhm) and her Dad (Kelley Stoltz). One matures to leave a life of peace-loving music behind as the other embraces those same ideals in a rock and roll world. The car becomes a symbol of their family, a piece of them both to cherish and never forget. Home isn’t where you are, but whom you’re with.

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