Written and Directed by: Ren Hanami
STARRING: Carmen Hodgson, Andrea Claux, Ren Hanami
Like Last Night
Like Last Night is a dramatic short by Ren Hanami, and follows two high-school friends – straight-laced Alex (Andrea Claux) and party-girl Caroline (Carmen Hodgson) – as they prepare for, and then cope with the aftermath of, a prom night party. Both come from Asian-American families, and it is clear that whilst the two are close, their outlooks and upbringings have been very different. When Caroline is sexually assaulted at the party, the strength of their friendship is tested.
This is a heartfelt short about a difficult topic, and is sensitively acted by the cast of three, including a strong performance by Director Hanami as Caroline’s mother. The opening shot hints at a dark undertone – a desaturated shot of Caroline lying catatonic on a bed, whilst thunder echoes. The cinematography is solid, with the grading – colourful before the party, and less saturated afterwards – appearing to reflect the loss of hope and innocence experienced by the protagonists. Unfortunately, the writing is a little weak at times, and there are some issues in the sound department, with one scene in the kitchen having a particularly loud hiss / noise floor, as though the dialogue was recorded too quietly and then amplified.
The key area that felt like it missed a trick, narratively, was the jump from the pre-party afternoon to the end of the night as the girls are leaving; rather than showing events inside the party. It’s possible this was due to budget constraints, but the party itself – during which Caroline ditches Alex to be with the party’s host, Caleb, and subsequently gets assaulted - felt like the crux of the drama and the crisis between the two girls; and it was frustrating that the narrative cut this out. Including it would have provided an excellent opportunity to show the girls’ relationship; their differing attitudes; and the flaws in the choices they make. The writing also sometimes falls victim to the trap of telling, rather than showing – with characters adjudicating others (“you’re a very organized girl”) and relating past events rather than showing them, (“I can’t believe you made out with Caleb and ditched me”).
Overall this was a well-meaning piece, addressing the hard-hitting issue of assault and rape. Whilst it hints at the near-impossibility of dealing with such a terrible event, and is well acted, it is let down a little by having characters talk about events “Last Night” rather than showing them. That said, Carmen Hodgson's performance was excellent, conveying a range of emotions from rage to broken fragility, and it was commendable that the film did not attempt to provide any easy answers.
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