A friend of mine looked at me with an unreadable expression after “Mary” screened during the “Heartbeats” portion of the “Made in Arkansas” shorts at the Little Rock Film Festival and uttered five words, “Holy crap that was awesome.” That pretty much sums up the interesting, astonishing masterpiece that is “Mary.”
From the Facebook page:
“Downtrodden and sleep deprived, Craig (Matt Newcomb) aimlessly wanders into Mary, who might be the girl of his dreams. After their meeting, curious happenings arise and Craig is forced to confront deep fears.”
An important factor complimenting the mysterious atmosphere is Matt Manning’s beautiful cinematography. We’re taken through Craig’s journey as if we’re walking through a dream. But is that the point? Is Craig dreaming? Is meeting Mary (Raeden Greer) a part of some random hallucination attributed to his sleep apnea? Or is Mary everything she seems to be? These are only a few questions that will float through your mind as we wisp through Craig’s situation.
The film, written and directed by Zach Turner and Caleb Turner, was brilliantly cast. The dialogue was also excellent and intriguing. The characters were complicated, deep, and multi-dimensional. The writers made each character as real as humanly possible and went beyond that. Then, somehow, they maintained that believability within a twenty-four minute short film. The cherry on top was the absolutely fantastic acting by the ensemble. Each character could have worked separately but within the ensemble, created a world that sucks you in from the first word spoken.
Newcomb is such a relatable guy. You feel terrible that his divorce has taken such a toll on his mind personally and professionally. He’s an awkward guy in an odd situation. The first interaction he has is with a janitor (Graham Gordy) in the high school at which he works. He converses with Craig about fishing, reincarnation (you know, like we’re talking about the weather), and how the two could be connected. None of it makes much sense, but it’s funny as all get out. After the janitor sends the film spiraling in one direction, we meet the bookstore magician (Jason Thompson). A few well-placed (and hilariously inappropriate) jokes that may be hinting at something more send the feel of the film in a completely different direction.
It all (literally) comes screeching to a halt when we meet Mary.
Greer is absolutely phenomenal in this mysterious role. The nuances she projects through her character are so defined that you know there is more going on in her mind than she lets on. She and Newcomb feed off each other in a way that is totally unexpected. Nothing in their conversation seems unbelievable (even though Craig can’t believe what’s happening) which adds to the entire atmosphere. Without giving too much away, there comes a point in the film where you’ll honestly wonder whether or not Craig is dreaming. You wonder if you’re the one that’s actually crazy. But the questions are never answered…or are they? I have my suspicions, but there’s no indication that I’m correct.
“Mary” is definitely a cinematic enigma. It pulls your brain out of your head, stomps on it a few times, and gently places it in its rightful place feeling confused but extremely pleased. You’ll probably end up watching it a million times with different thoughts on what is going on each time you watch it. But one thing is certain: this film was, without a doubt, one of the best that played in the Arkansas block and definitely one of the best short films I’ve seen in quite some time. Be sure to keep up with “Mary” by “liking” the film on Facebook.
Little Rock Movie Examiner’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars