Hazel (2019) Poster

(2019)

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A thoughtful movie which makes one think - and that's quite a rare treat these days
StripfilmIFF7 November 2019
One summer evening, a group of friends sneaks over a fence into someone else's property, making the most of the fact that the owners are away for the night. They take a dip in the swimming pool and even find an outdoor bar with a selection of drinks on display. As Hazel, one of the girls starts a monologue about existence and alternate dimensions, the others become unsure about whether or not reality is as straightforward as we normally take it to be.

In its brief runtime, 'Hazel' explores a multitude of ideas that challenge conventional beliefs and established norms. Through her short and complex monologue, the main character - who also lends her name to the project - wonders about the existence of 'others' across the universe. The word 'aliens' might immediately pop up in the audience's mind, however, that is not the full picture. What director Sara Eustaquio explores here is perhaps more related to the multiverse theory, quantum mechanics and the butterfly effect. It relates to the idea of variables, where the result of a decision will span events similar in nature, but different in their own right.

What is interesting about this short film is that Hazel does not merely challenge the audience to take note of the little details, and try to look closer in order to find the 'truth'. She instead addresses this request directly to her friends, and thus indirectly to the audience. By seeing their reaction and supplementing it with ours, the sense of surprise and wonder resulting from it is even more palpable than it would have been otherwise.

The acting might not be exactly top-notch, and the interactions between the characters might at times feel a little bit awkward, but ultimately, this does not become an issue. The monotonous tone of 'Hazel's dialogues and monologues can be compared to the tone which Yorgos Lanthimos' characters utilize in 'The Lobster' and 'The Killing of a Sacred Deer', in order to establish a degree of rigidity, distance, and otherworldliness. And the latter is a word which perfectly encompasses the nature of 'Hazel' - it starts with a seemingly normal friend gathering, and expands into something much more, all while retaining an ordinary backdrop.

'Hazel' does not need to escalate, understands how to pace its ideas, and knows when to end in order to make maximum impact. While it might not be a masterpiece, it's a thoughtful movie which makes one think - and that's quite a rare treat these days.

Stripfilm International Fim Festival
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A strong and enjoyable short film
largofilmawards5 November 2019
Teen dramas are commonplace in the market, but rarely do they pack the impact they intend to. Hazel is the exception. The story may not be completely original but it is presented in a way that is compelling and interesting. The imagery and colour palette compliment the tone of the film perfectly making it an easy and palatable watch.

The film provides performances that convey the emotion within the story effectively, creating characters that are relatable and dynamic. The script is well rounded and written in a way that isn't contrived or on the nose. Strong editing and sound mixing work well to emphasise the impact of the film. Costume and Set design support the overall tone of the film but don't distract from the narrative.

Hazel provides a compelling narrative and encompassing atmosphere that keeps the audience interested throughout. A strong and enjoyable short film.

Largo Film Awards
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Sara did a great job and I'd love to see what she could do with two hours
brianlutes-2437830 July 2019
Have you ever had one of those "Do you think we're alone in the universe?" conversations with a friend? Or how about, "Do you think we could exist in infinite dimensions?" Well, I suspect Sara Eustáquio has. She made a film and called it Hazel...

Sara is what you could call a 'thinking' filmmaker. She likes to mess with our minds while entertaining. She's a student at Calarts in California and I believe Hazel was a class project. At six minutes, it's fun, thought provoking and well put together. In the age of the Zombie Apocalypse films, it's a refreshing change!

Hazel opens with a heady quote from Milton, "The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven." We see five college friends fence hopping at night, into somebody's backyard. With no one home, the kids take a dip in the pool and help themselves to booze from the bar. One of the girls, Hazel, played by Gabrielle Galloway (who bears a striking resemblance to Clint Eastwood's long-time girlfriend, Sondra Locke), lays back on the grass and begins star gazing. A boy, Elias, played by Garrett Gallego, moves in next to her. "They all keep saying I'm crazy. Wanna know what is crazy?" she begins. "Living day in day out, oblivious to the tiniest little things. I think we aren't alone..." He turns to her, "Hazel, you're monologuing again."

A moment later, Addy (Sofia Rahaniotis) steps over. "They all keep saying I'm crazy..." Hazel says again, turning to her, "Wanna know what crazy is?" she says, repeating the monologue. Startled by a noise, Addy turns over her shoulder to see a second version of Hazel rattling the fence. "I think we aren't alone," Hazel continues. Suddenly we see the pool filled with multiple ghostly versions of Hazel. It's cryptic and creepy and unsettling. I especially loved the absence of a musical score, opting instead for exaggerated foley and eerie sounds. Throughout the film we actually hear Hazel's voice repeating, "They think I'm crazy..." Nicely done.

A good film is one that successfully delivers. Sara came up with a cool concept and pulled it off. The pacing and flow was spot on.

Typically, I gauge the depth of my review to what I believe to be the ability of the filmmaker. Sara did a great job and I'd love to see what she could do with two hours. I would, though, like to see a closer eye to detail and a little more effort to create polish. I would like more time spent on table reads to create more natural sounding dialogue. Hazel saying, "You still went inside the pool," or Addy following with, "Guys, there's a bar. Do you think they left any drinks outside?" sounds a little awkward and unnatural and could be tweaked.

For the most part the camera work and sound design are very good. When I don't hear obvious issues with foley and ADR, I know everybody's done their job. My only complaint was the decision not to light the bar. Just because the RED has great low light capabilities is no excuse not to set up lights. The result was flat, grey and grainy... not up to the standards of the rest of the project.

Again, I point these things out because I know Sara has already picked up on them and cringed, herself, which is what makes a great filmmaker. These are not issues that make or break a film, they are merely distractions. The fewer distractions, the more engaged we are as viewers. Hazel is truly a great project, Sara... and thanks for sharing it with the festival. I definitely look forward to your next!

Brian Lutes/World Premiere Film Awards
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A very interesting film which effectively takes the viewer on a brief trip through an altered state of mind
dmofffilmfestival28 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Hazel starts out as a familiar teenage escapade. A group of youths climb a fence to get into a neighbors pool at night time, plunging into the water after being assured from Hazel that she babysits for the family who lives here and they're all out of town. After a little splashing around, some of the teens begin to climb back out of the water and begin a search of the neighbors poolside bar for some liquor to steal.

It's the realm of a typical slasher film, and we know something is going to crash this little party, but we don't really know what. What it turns out to be is definitely not what we have prepared ourselves for. Hazel is now sitting on the grass with one of the guys, and the two are looking up at the stars. Suddenly Hazel speaks an enigmatic bit of dialog that begins with a familiar refrain which we'll be hearing again: "They'll always say I'm crazy. But want to know what's crazy? Living day in and day out being oblivious to the tiniest things." This seems like the typical sentiment you'd hear from a teenager experimenting with philosophy, the kind of thing you might see in a self-indulgent social media post. But that is when Hazel immediately leads this off into speculating about other dimensions. She says maybe there are other worlds entwined with our own, all connected through a single interdimensional mind. "Do you ever think about that?" she asks her friend. Her friend says she's "monologing again", but that the idea is a pretty wild one. We cut now to Hazel's friend who passed through this scene previously on her way to bar. Having acquired some liquor, she heads back to poolside on the lawn, and is setting next to Hazel, who is dressed differently. There's a quick flash where we seem to be back at the beginning of the film for the moment, with everyone diving into the pool again. Hazel begins her awkward and strangely intense dialog once more, almost identical to how she spoke to the boy in the grass. "They keep saying I'm crazy...."

By the time she gets to the hive minds, she's directed her friends gaze toward the stars, only to be broken up by the sound of a rattling gate. The gate is also revealed to be Hazel, just out of view, and across the pool there now sits yet another Hazel, this one dressed in black and smiling across at the girl who is speaking to Hazel #2, now looking very confused as the boy who spoke with Hazel #1 swimsup and asks if there's alcohol at the bar. Hazels other worlds and multiple realities are real and moving around the group.

This film is very well done; particularly with excellent casting in the role of Hazel, a woman who truly seems otherworldly throughout the film. It's a short and very interesting film which effectively takes the viewer on a brief trip through an altered state of mind.

DMOFF
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'Hazel': There are many more of you out there...
indieshortsmagazine20 June 2019
A well-crafted narrative that's tightly knit to showcase a world of endless possibilities, that's 'Hazel' for you. At 6:23 minutes, Sara Eustaquio's obscure but thought-provoking plot leaves you with a hint of fluster and ambiguity. The story that sets up an atmosphere of a high school drama quickly smacks you in the face with a sledgehammer as you venture ahead.

'Hazel' follows a group of friends who break into a house to hang out. Teenage mischief, at best, one would say. But, as they lounge by the pool expecting the evening to be fun, little do they anticipate the turn of events. With the unravelling of a disquieting chain of events, one of which is sure to disturb them for the rest of their lives, Eustaquio sure knows how to race up her characters' adrenaline as she does yours.

The film's namesake is played by Gabrielle Galloway, who captivates the audience with her striking but uncanny persona. She can leave anyone unsettled should they choose to trade words with her. And, the background score only fuels her cold intimidation. Add to that, Max Zabell's cinematography, featuring few wide shots; it only leaves much to the audience's interpretation. The cryptic atmosphere of the storyline that's kept intact with well-placed camera angles gives the necessary dark tone to the film. Eustaquio's storytelling shines through when it slips in, only the information that's relevant to drive the plot ahead and not any more.

With scarce dialogues to spare, the tension between the characters is well built. The only conversation that exists is channelled through Hazel's repeated monologue which quickly shifts the lightheartedness of the plot to something sinister. 'Hazel' is constructed with a shared perspective of its characters; Ace (Tristan Boesch) and Elias (Garrett Gallego), as the vigilantes who scrutinize their friend's puzzling rambling. And, just as the audience, they are entangled in what seems to be an inescapable nightmare. 'Hazel' ends with an abrupt blackout partnered with Hazel's monologue, leaving you to stuff the holes of mystery riddled in your mind.

The film appears to line up dominoes which would display their full-fledged effect in a feature-length film perhaps, but for a short film, it leaves an open-ended conclusion leaving the audience perplexed about a teenager who doesn't quite 'fit in'. But, isn't that what young adulthood is all about anyway? What Eustaquio does uniquely though is juxtaposing it against the heavy theories of non-linear existence, raising metaphysical questions, which sure, make for an interesting segment, but leaves one wondering of the fates of the characters in the film...
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10/10
Disturbing
romeprismaawards30 May 2019
T is very exciting to be able to track down the process of learning and improving of a young but already award-winning filmmaker. We had previously reviewed the work of Sara Eustáquio and found it very complete for her age. We are now in front of another film that works around the same feeling of restlessness and uneasiness.

A group of young boys and girls climb over the wall of a villa for a night in a swimming pool of a family where one of the girls worked as a baby-sitter. They know nobody's there. While everyone is partying, the leading character talks separately to the other boys and girls of a very disquieting theory she has. That's where we start to perceive a feeling of something obscure, dark and weird about her. In her looks, stare and mimic there is something unsettling, almost paranormal.

Without going further into the plot, not to spoil in to those who could be curious, we could say that the director has been successful in creating the right atmosphere. Even if we could not see the completed film (part of the post production has still to be done) we already feel its purpose and we are actually disturbed by how the situation unfolds. A very simple plot works as the perfect structure to develop the atmosphere and the feelings Sara wanted us to feel, and the leading actress plays a very good part in setting the mood around her character.

We really hope that "Hazel" by Sara Eustáquio will be another successful film, but above all else we hope that she will continue improving steadily over time and be able to stage her films with a bigger production in the time being.

Rome Prisma Independent Film Awards
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It will make you beg for more
Ever had an exciting night out with your friends, where it is all about having fun, sneaking out, making the most of your time together without a care in the world. Enjoying each other's company, doing silly stuff, and having in-depth conversations about life or the whole world that you'll either laugh off or ponder the whole night. Well, I had those times when I was young, the best times of my younger years if you ask me. And I am pretty sure many of you can relate to that. But have you ever experienced that fun slowly turning into something else? Like a creepy scene from a horror movie? Weird huh? And it becomes even weirder the moment you realize one of your closest friends is not the person you thought she is. I bet there are those of you who are now starting to question, how can an innocent night of fun and adventure with friends turn into one of their worst nightmares? Well, hanging in tight there my lovely readers, because we are about to crash in with Hazel and her friends in this mystery-filled mind-boggling short film called "Hazel" from the young student filmmaker Sara Eustáquio.

The main factor that I love about this movie is its unpredictability. I am giving this short film bonus points for that. As I have stated in my introduction that watching this film made me relive all the fun adventure I had with my best buddies when I am younger, that was my initial thought of the story. A feel-good film about friends having the time of their lives being teenagers, but I was wrong. Director Sara Eustáquio gave me more. She served me with a compelling mystery that took me beyond the universe and further to the depths of the unknown.

I am going to give you a little sneak peek of this impressive film, but I got to warn you though, it will make you beg for more. If you're ready, Imagine an awesome night out. You and your friends decided to crash someone else's swimming pool and began to have a party. It was all fun and crazy, full of teenage spirit, naive and oblivious to the world. Then you have that one friend, fun to be with, crazy enough to fool around but at the same time has an undefined depth in character. A person that can immediately switch the crazy to someone serious and puzzling, a friend quite like Hazel. The moment Hazel started on what seems to be her regular monologuing self, ignited the disturbing night that they will never forget for the rest of their life, that is if they survive the night.

I am very impressed by this film, and to know that it was made by a student filmmaker just had my jaw drop to the floor. I am seriously rooting for this short film to be a full-length movie. It is so good that I just can't help but anticipate what happened to Hazel and her friends. No wonder that at a very young age of 19 our director Sara Eustáquio is already a multi-award-winning filmmaker. Her sense of style and passion for writing and creating film is outright outstanding. The movie industry even looks brighter with young filmmakers like her. Keep up the remarkably excellent work, hope to see more of your films, Congratulations!

Utah Film Festival and Awards
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