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For a lonely typographer, an online relationship has provided a much-needed connection without revealing the speech impediment that has kept him isolated. Now, however, he is faced with the proposition of meeting his online paramour in the flesh, and thereby revealing the truth about himself.Written by
Light-hearted and slightly tragic - a winning blend
If Everything Will Be Okay is this year's most favorable Oscar-nominated live action short, then Stutterer is a close runner-up with its light-hearted, albeit slightly tragic, narrative about a man who's thoughts in his head are crystal-clear but the words out of his mouth are shaky and lack confidence. The short revolves around a lonely typographer named Greenwood (Matthew Needham), who has struggled with enunciation and basic communication all his life due to his stammer, to the point where it's easier to use sign language than to even try to muster up the strength to communicate - let alone have the other party be patient enough to hear him out. He makes the street-corner preacher in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing sound like a public speaker.
Greenwood has spent most of his days on Facebook, communicating with a woman he's been in an online relationship with for six months. He desperately wants to meet her, but knows she'll be disappointed. In his head, his words flow perfectly, with a buttery consistency and melodic depth that makes his presence assertive. Despite this, it takes Greenwood a good forty-five seconds to get eight words out and we can see the mental hopscotch and exhaustion it takes just to get those eight words out of his mouth.
Benjamin Cleary doesn't position Stutterer in a way that makes us sob or even tear up at Greenwood's situation, largely because he creates a character and not a vessel that demands manipulative sympathy. He wants us to see Greenwood as a person, with deep thoughts and ideas, rather than an empty soul manufactured so we can have someone to look down upon and feel sorry for. It's also arguably the most tonally consistent short film of the lot, largely because of its brevity and its very simplistic structure and makeup (very direct, straight-shot sequences with many close-ups and bust shots making for a very serviceable look).
With that, Stutterer becomes a beautiful little romance, and actually has the weight and potential to turn into a charming, full-length feature similar to Shawn Christensen's Oscar-winning short Curfew and its eventually evolution into the terrific film Before I Disappear in 2013.
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