Written & Directed by: Kathleen Cecchin
STARRING: Julie Lavery, Kristen Joy Bjorge, Kahyun Kim
Pam is an interesting short drama from the USA about three schoolgirls who experiment with inhaling aerosols one afternoon when they come home from school.
Written and directed by Kathleen Cecchin, the story begins innocently enough, with the girls bringing home some shopping and discussing boys. The fact that they are home alone is subtly conveyed by a phone call with an absent parent in which two of the girls – presumably sisters – monosyllabically inform their parent that they ‘went to the store’. Events take an unexpected turn after this, however, when the girls spray aerosols into plastic bags and inhale them, and one, the eponymous Pam, has a trip in which she hallucinates swimming underwater.
The film is well-shot with solid production values, and a nostalgic tone is deftly created by DoP Willy Laszlo's creative use of sunlight. The light glints throughout, suggesting Pam's innocence and curiosity, and the slow-motion underwater scene towards the end was atmospheric and artistically portrayed.
Story-wise, however, the characters felt a little under-developed. It wasn’t entirely clear what aspect of Pam's character was being explored, and there wasn’t quite enough information conveyed about the girls or their relationships to one another. There was than an initial childishness suggested by eating red rope licorice and typical schoolgirl chatter about boys - but the distinctions between the three girls; the cynical older sister, the boy-crazy friend and the innocent Pam, could have been developed further. The performances from the three female leads were intelligent and believable, but overall the story lacked impact because it was difficult to relate to characters about whom so little was conveyed. Consequently, the film felt more like a teaser or slice of life than a self-contained narrative short.
That said, the sharp inhalation of breath and sudden coming-to by Pam at the end could be seen to be representative of a loss of innocence; she has transitioned from childish pursuits to literally and figuratively having her eyes opened to the world. At 5 minutes, the pacing cannot be faulted and it is an enjoyable and artistically shot piece; but it did feel as though stronger character development was necessary for this well-made short to achieve its full potential.
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