I wasn’t sure what to make of this film at first, or what the director’s (Derek Stockton) intentions were, but what seemed to me like a contained, constrained, and repressed movie wound up taking me by surprise.
PENUMBRA is exactly, in my mind, what I think it might be like to have Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive disorder that leaves the patient frequently confusing their own reality. This isn’t necessarily what the story is trying to convey, and it becomes a bit clearer by the end what the father character might be suffering from, but I believe there’s still room for the audience to have their own thoughts about how it relates to the people who have suffered with illness in their own lives.
The father and son tale encapsulates the feeling of a child taking care of an ailing relative who needs to be constantly reminded where they were, the food they like, and preventing them from wandering off.
The story isn’t subtle by any means, but still leaves room for the audience to think on what they’re being presented with. The addition of medical paraphernalia at key points drives the narrative home without completely bashing you over the head with it.
The other piece that’s doing some heavy lifting in this short film is the tree in the yard that the father character seems to be drawn to. It’s not explicit what this means, but it could be inferred that it has to do with a “tree of life” type of scenario, or maybe a memory or feeling he’s trying to hold onto. There’s also the idea that trees produce oxygen, and it becomes evident at the end of the film he may have been on an oxygen machine.
There were a few camera moves that could have used a little work, but for a low-budget film like this, it’s the perfect place to make those mistakes. Overall though, a good piece that tells a complete and thoughtful story in the short seven-ish minutes they’ve alloted.
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