Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Short Film Review: Pink Moon

Pink Moon (2014)
Written & Directed by Sal Bardo

I want to try something new: Reviews on short films. I wrote a couple towards the start of this blog, but at some point I just spiraled into only covering TV. Which isn't a bad thing; I love TV and it's more than worthy of attention, and with Empire starting up again this week, you can be sure there's more week to week reviews to come. But I love short form storytelling just as much as I do long form, so why have I been neglecting short films? Well, whatever the reason, hopefully I can be diligent a let that end now.

Pink Moon is a short that I've watched twice now and I can't quite figure out if I think it's brilliant or if I think I'm just a sap. The truth is that it has a strong affect on me either way, so I guess you have to say it's a success. The story takes place in a society where the roles are reversed and homosexuality is the norm while heterosexuals are the persecuted minority. On top of that, abortion is illegal and there seem to be strict rules in place geared towards global population control. It centers around Ben and Emily, two teenagers in love and working to hide their forbidden straight relationship and terminate their unplanned pregnancy. Through this conflict, the film does strong work showing just how important open and ready access to abortions and better health practices are. The horror of shady back alley abortions is something we should all want to avoid at all cost, and the film isn't shy about suggesting such.

One of Pink Moon's greatest strengths can be found in the performances of the two leads, Brandon Tyler Harris and Cole Johnston. In quick and quiet moments, the couple's love for each other is made plain and they come off not as deluded Romeo and Juliette stand ins, but as mature and loving people trying to make the best of a shitty situation. Emily in particular seems to be worried about disappointing her mothers (of whom we only meet one) and upsetting the life they've all had planned for her.

There is one mark against Pink Moon as far as I can tell: Ben's boyfriend Leo. He's here to represent some mark of normalcy for the society in which they live, and obviously Ben only has a boyfriend because it's expected of him much in the same way that gay men have long been marrying women in our real world. But the two scenes with Leo feel oddly ungrounded and unbelievable. Or to be more specific, we don't know enough about Leo to know exactly how to respond to his two scenes. Is he a good guy who's been pushed over the edge by dating someone he's clearly into but who refuses to have sex with him? If so, does that justify him finding a piece of paper with a phone number on it and battling against his boyfriend to call it against his wishes and then getting two of his friends to beat up said boyfriend while shouting slurs of "Breeder!" at him? Or is he just an all around horrible person? If so, why were he and Ben dating in the first place? I think one scene in between the phone call and the straight bashing scene would have been enough to better illuminate Leo's motivations, but without that he's left a little flat.

Other than that, I think Pink Moon posits an interesting if not totally revelatory world and then sets out to do it justice. And it's the rare kind of Queer film that doesn't seek to villianize the straight characters. Indeed, how can it given its basic premise? Instead, by the end, you're rooting for the straight couple and hoping they'll be able to craft the kind of life they really want and within which they'll be the most happy. It's a very enjoyable 17 minutes, and well worth your time.

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