Director: Andrew Moorman.
Writer: Arik Martin.
Breaking Glass Pictures is distributing Andrew Moorman’s first film Sympathy through their specialty label Vicious Circle Films, which is concerned with “extreme material” (Breaking). Moorman’s first film was created for $6500 on one set and the film involves three principal actors. Brad Miska at the horror review site Bloody Disgusting calls the film an: “independent Hitchcockian thriller” (Bloody). Yet, the constraints of the budget make the set design ineffective and the picture as a generalization overly claustrophobic. The brilliant acting by Aaron Boucher, Steven Pritchard and especially Marina Shtlelen, with excellent writing are not enough to fully break Sympathy free from the constraints of a minuscule film budget.
The film’s story follows a hostage taking as a bank robber makes a quick getaway from a local heist. However, this is not a simple carjacking as the price on Sara’s head is $500 large, which will be paid by her father when found. An already complex criminal endeavour is further frustrated by the introduction of an escaped convict who needs a place to lay low. The final act shows that characters are rarely who they initially appear to be, with the protagonists and antagonists changing roles.
Sympathy has that claustrophobic, closed in feel like the film Bug starring Michael Shannon and Ashley Judd where the psychology of the characters is more important than the action. Yet, action and the use of exterior shots often break up the pacing, while adding tension if used right. These aspects are not incorporated in to this production due to the budget and other opinions on the one room set vary from “[the set] adds intensity to [the] film’s overall atmosphere” (FilmArcade),and “setting the movie in such a confined location adds to the suspense and tension” (Inside), to “Sympathy is not very visually appealing” (Bloody). Viewers opinions on using one set will range, and while the film could easily be reproduced as a play, the use of one set slows the pacing to a standstill at certain points within in the film.
The negatives aside, Sympathy is well played out by the characters whose infighting, while sometimes repetitive, is often tense and full of violent externalizations of angry feelings. For each of the actors in the film this is their first production; yet, the interaction of the characters is natural and fluid with each of the actors working off the other to produce a thrilling atmosphere through the threat of almost constant violence. As well, the writing of characters allows for multiple levels of motivations, which are revealed in the final denouement, or conclusion of the film. Inside Pulse, the film review site, says of the characterizations “there is so much lies, false identities, and ulterior motives that the film really depends on how well they can make us believe them” (Inside) and the film will be successful for most readers in making the acting and motivations believable.
Independent films rely on creativity rather than big budgets to draw audiences. Yet, to keep a film exclusively within one set does not utilize one of the advantages of cinema over plays, which is the use of exterior shots. Even stock footage of a police chase, or police on patrol searching for the hostage, the bank robber, and ex-con could have gone a long way to heighten tension, while breaking up the hundred and fourty minutes of interior shots. Made for a very small budget, Andrew Moorman’s Sympathy is an excellent calling card for future productions, despite some flaws in set design and execution.
Plot/story/believability: 6.5 (an escaped convict meeting up with a hostage taker and bang robber is a stretch).
Setting/realistic/importance to story: 5 (too sparse, imagination can go only so far without visual appeal).
Acting/characterizations/performance: 7 (believable, well acted characters).
Overall: 6.15 out of 10 (here is one vote for a bigger budget in Moorman’s next film).
Sympathy on Twitter:
Sympathy at Twitter
Sympathy on Facebook:
Sympathy’s Fan Site
A very nice looking official website for the feature:
Sympathy’s Official Website