THE SON, THE FATHER… **** USA 2017 Dir: Lukas Hassel. 13 mins
A visually striking short from writer-director Lukas Hassel, shot in Renton, Washington. The first, portentous image is of a fly buzzing around a whiskey glass. A sense of dread surrounds what should be an innocuous scene of a young boy (Lucas Oktay) walking home on his eleventh birthday, carrying a yellow balloon.
Hassel makes subtly unnerving use of colour throughout. The birthday boy finds his alcoholic, overbearing mother – trapped in a constant battle for affection with his father – faking her death for the sake of (she says) an “emergency response test”. This results in a bizarre mother-son game of one-upmanship that seems destined not to end well. The filmmaker has stylistic fun with dolly zooms and drone shots, while superbly capturing an escalation of domestic misery, taken to blackly comic extremes and revolving around Colleen Carey’s notably grotesque matriarch. A shift in time periods at a pivotal point conveys the impact of a truly dysfunctional childhood, and just one of several troubling elements is that the protagonist shares his first name with the filmmaker. Let’s hope it’s not an autobiographical piece.
Review by Steven West