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Scarlett Alice Johnson,
A rendering of Rudyard Kipling's IF, What If is a short film that tells the story of a boy who learns fundamental life lessons on nobility, patience, generosity and how to become an admirable young man.
Nicely made but just falling short a little on atmosphere and consistency of tone
Director Matthew Savage has worked in the art department for many things you will have seen (Dark Knight, X-Men, Kick-Ass, Doctor Who, Torchwood) and his skills with design and the look of something is a big factor here as he creates a noir world in a sci-fi setting, or vice versa. The plot sees the atypical noir leading man (hat, coat, cigarette, regret) confronting another character and chasing him down while in the background of the story the city is in the grip of a killer who has already stuck multiple times.
The film is pretty short but does have a reasonable plot along the way so it is not just a visual bit of showing off. That said, the look of the film is the main selling point and it mostly does a good job on a couple of levels. The first is to recreate the sense of 1940's noir but using UK locations. The black and white cinematography is a bit too bright and clear for my tastes to fit the genre, but it still works and the feeling of the genre is mostly good. The sci-fi element comes in the form of Jimmy, a retro styled robot character who is subject to the chase. He is nicely designed and well animated into the real world with the only downside being that his voice is very hard to make out at times. Noel Clarke does a solid job in the lead role albeit as a genre- standard character.
The short is generally good in design and idea and more or less in delivery; it is just that it seems to be falling short of where it wants to be. For example the noir stylings are good but not spot on. The delivery of the story is a strange mix of inconsistent tone with some bits feeling like dark noir while others feel like comedic or slapstick in a way that seems at odds with the rest of the material. Clarke is supposed to look bloodied but the make-up effects of a few bits of blood on his face don't convince. It is a nicely done short that mostly works, but it is hard to shake the feeling that it is falling short and just needs a little bit more polish to bring it off fully.
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