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When discussing a film such as Mark J. Blackman's short NEON there must be a delicate balance between revealing just enough and flat out spoiling the narrative. Short film filmmakers do not have the luxury of really exploring their narratives at depth and must resort to shorthand, no pun intended, to get their stories across. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Be too on the nose and you could be accused of being heavy-handed. Be too vague and you could lose audience interest. With that being said, even the film's synopsis may give too much away; nope, not going to post it. It reveals just enough to get someone thinking and possibly overthinking. Mark J. Blackman's film is a love story. A very layered love story. Most importantly, it's an engaging one.

In the beginning it looks like this film will be about just another budding relationship turning sour as it starts. You get the sense that Elias and Mary do genuinely care about each other but for some reason Elias doesn't feel right about continuing. Despite her history with bad relationships Mary doesn't want to let him go. Why Elias doesn't want to continue his relationship with Mary is what this film is about. Sitting back for the duration of the film's running time to have those reasons revealed is quite rewarding. Going into the film, I've only watched its trailer and in the end I did not expect it to go where it ultimately did.

Joe Absolom and Kerry Bennett give strong performances as Elias and Mary, respectively. Often times you only hear Elias over the phone and Absolom effectively conveys the anguish that Elias is dealing with. When you do see Elias you will likely at once think that this man is engaged in nefarious activities, which is likely intended, and Absolom does a great job of never showing his hand until all is made clear. Absolom does a great job of portraying a man bound to something but wanting more. He really draws you in and you totally empathize with his situation. Bennett is also strong as Mary; a woman who has been involved in too many bad relationships and finds one she wants to hold on to slipping away. Mary's only contact with Elias is via telephone and in those scenes Bennett gives a natural performance of a woman on the verge of heartbreak. There are other scenes she appears in but I shall not go into them as they would be spoilers. Just like Absolom, you are drawn in and empathize with her situation. The film also features Fraser James, James Kermack and Ceejay Sargent and they are quite good in small yet notable supporting roles.

For a 15 minute short, NEON clearly has the look and feel of a full-blown feature film. It features rich widescreen cinematography, tight editing, an evocative score and an unexpected amount of great visual effects; sorry minor spoiler there. The film does have a non-linear structure and at no point does the narrative become convoluted or disjointed. Blackman does a great job of keeping things effortlessly flowing as he peels back the layers of the story found deep within that preconceived notion of a love going stereotypically bad. On the surface NEON is a bittersweet romance but ultimately proves to be so much more. Do yourself a favor, take 15 minutes out of your day and be entertained. In the end, there's no denying you'll have something interesting to talk about later.



**** Stars


Director: Mark J. Blackman

Screenplay: Mark J. Blackman

Starring: Joe Absolom, Kerry Bennett, Bill Hutchens, Ceejay Sargent, Fraser James, James Kermack


Running Time: 15 minutes


Rating Scale:

***** = Outstanding ****1/2 = Excellent **** = Very Good ***1/2 = Above Average

*** = Good **1/2 = Mediocre ** = Fair *1/2 = Poor * = Bad 1/2* = Abysmal

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