"Love, Jack" displays high quality for low budget
The cast, crew, and faculty of the Biola Film "Love Jack" speaks to the crowd after the premiere of the show, which took place in Long Beach on December 2, 2011. | Job Ang/THE CHIMES
The 2011 Biola ﬁlm “Love, Jack,” written and directed by senior Taylor Horky, premiered Friday, Dec. 2 at the Warner Grand Theater in San Pedro, Calif. I had never seen any of the previous Biola ﬁlms, which are the student-made productions funded every semester by Biola and orchestrated by several members of the cinema and media arts faculty, so I greatly anticipated watching the end-product of nearly a year of work by many of my peers and professors. As a ﬁlm major myself, it feels strange to review a studentʼs short ﬁlm since Iʼve seen ﬁrsthand the manpower, the hours, the blood, sweat and tears it takes to make a movie that will only last about 20 minutes. Thankfully, I did like “Love, Jack” for what it was.
Realistic setting of 1950's
The ﬁlm starts with a charming opening credit sequence that slowly sweeps us through a house made to look like it exists in the 1950s. Parallel to this montage is an elderly couple waltzing to the radio in the living room, each beaming from ear to ear. Next we are introduced to Jack, a tall youth who stalks up to the front door of a dark house. We reason that this is the house of the elderly couple, though their surroundings are warm and well-lit. As Jack, who has been drinking, clumsily knocks and enters the house, we see it is lifeless and empty, yet he acts as though he expected someone to be there. It is assumed without clearer expression that Jack has lost this couple on a personal level. Later we discover they were his parents. Why were they so old? Not explained. Some young people have parents with grey hair and wrinkles, I suppose.
Jack breaks the cardinal rule and drives while intoxicated, not only by hooch but also by despair. He crashes. On an extremely limited budget, “Love, Jack” does well to emulate a simple yet convincing post-wreck nighttime sequence involving a police car and an arriving ﬁre engine alongside a totaled Buick with an unconscious Jack inside. All of the vehicles help maintain the impression that this is taking place in the mid-20th century. Bravo to everyone involved in the formation of this scene; it was well-shot, well-paced and, like I said before, convincing.
Jack wakes up in the hospital with a bandage around his head and an IV in his arm. In the next bed over and sharing the room is Frank, the most important character in the ﬁlm. A charming old man with an unintentional air of wisdom, Frank is in minor pain from an unexplained ailment. However, he rarely wears anything but a smile, even in the midst of Jackʼs quiet negativity. A particularly nice touch in terms of narrative is a cigar that Frank chews on but never smokes. He hides it from the nurse but dons it comfortably in front of Jack, a practice that merits valuable humor.
The movie is essentially about the relationship that materializes between these two inpatients. I wonʼt reveal how the story comes to an end, but in a nutshell we watch as Frank attempts to plant a seed of hope within Jackʼs hard, grieving heart. A singularly beautiful moment is one in which Frank describes the tranquil public park he stares at from the roomʼs window. Jack cannot see out of it from his own bed. To reveal the resolve of a short ﬁlm to someone who hasnʼt seen it would be to murder it before it even had a chance, but Iʼll simply say “Love, Jack” concludes on a positive note.
Showcasing Biola Film
Adapted from a short story he read years ago, Horky offered up a rough vision of “Love, Jack” to several members of the CMA staff last spring and won their approval and the votes of his peers to make the vision a reality. After a particularly rough pre-production period and with the help of executive producer and CMA professor John Schmidt, the movie was eventually shot in the span of twelve very long days. As a short ﬁlm, especially on a student level, “Love, Jack” has a well-paced demeanor to it. The fact that it is based in the baby boomer age gives it that much more intrigue and artistic capability, and the set designers did a great job of bringing that across. For such a simple stage, the hospital room served as a more-than-satisfactory realm for the story to unfold, and professional, non-Biolan actors Aaron Shand, who played Jack, and Jerry Bornstein, who played Frank, were both fantastic actors who added signiﬁcant legitimacy to the ﬁlm.
A small gripe I have with “Love, Jack” was the lack of character development and back story of Jack and Frank. It is an obvious fact that in a short ﬁlm, especially one that covers much ground with the limited time given, the prospect of developing a character and his or her past is nearly impossible. However, as a matter of the script, it would have been nice to see a bit more time devoted to deeper details, such as the mystery of the absence of Jackʼs parents or Frankʼs insinuated involvement in the war and his relationship with a wife whom he lost to ... well, it never really explained that either. Ambiguity can work wonders in the right context, but I donʼt think that is what Horky was going for. The borderline wholeness of his characters was there, but only just.
All in all, “Love, Jack” is a great project and one that the cast and crew should be very proud of after all of their hard work. It upholds the fact that the Biola film is a wonderful artistic tradition at this school.