In the spirit of trying new things, we review the short film, Goldfish.
We open inside a colorful fish bowl with a single lonely inhabitant swimming about. It’s a striking visage evoking tranquility, serenity. A goldfish never has much to worry about. Our main character in the film tells us of the speculation that goldfish have only a three-second short term memory. Do they remember where they are from one second to the next? Is there even a possibility of making connections with such a short memory? Connections like companionship? Friendship? Love? It’s a dreary thought you’ll carry with you the next time you walk by those glass tanks at Petsmart after seeing writer-director Dale Driver’s short film.
Goldfish builds a very complex moral dilemma over a short runtime, cornering Anna (Lindsay Bennett) into the medical proxy equivalent of a Mexican standoff. She sits across from the faceless Stephen Fawkes, discussing their options for dealing with little Rosie’s (Aimee Branson) condition. As a father to a baby boy, the idea of sitting in that bleak, sterile room with someone’s necktie staring back at me while discussing the future of my son’s health is enough to send chills down my spine.
Cleverly constructed on a low budget, Dale Driver’s little film leaves you with plenty to think on afterward. You don’t need big budgets for big ideas, and Driver has quite a few. In the process, he shows tremendous aptitude as a visual storyteller. Many key points and backstory are briskly filled in with well-placed cutaways and close-ups. The cinematography by Richard Davis isn’t amazing, but it serves the story well, and doesn’t distract us even when the telltale signs of shooting on a Canon DSLR rear their ugly head (there is significant moire and aliasing, even on faces; this could be due to the filmmaker’s choice of internet codec, as this short was viewed on Vimeo in HD).
|"No. We can't afford another fish.|
I'll buy you a box of crackers."
Goldfish isn’t a film that explains everything, and that’s both a strength and a weakness. While the core story is enough to merit a feature film, there are times when Driver’s ambition gets ahead of his material. One particular moment jumps the shark by shoehorning a futuristic sci-fi element into a story where it’s completely unnecessary, and — quite oddly — the scenes that should resonate the most are the weakest moments technically. The mother and daughter together on the playground vista is visually arresting, but the cutesy stuff shot around their house just looks like video someone would shoot at home. There are also some stylistic choices to do with the presentation of the Doctor (Fawkes) that were abandoned. While I understand the motivation to inject some humanity, the faceless voice approach works so well in the opening scenes that the reveal of Stephen Fawkes’ face robs the latter half of much intrigue.
By the time the credits rolled, I found myself asking what I would do. When trapped between a rock and a bubbling air filter standing in as a hard place, fueled by fear and love, people are capable of making decisions that sway far askew from our usual path. One of the strengths of Driver’s script is that he doesn’t provide us with any real coda, but instead asks us — and Anna — to think about the consequences of making those calls for the people we love. We would like to hope that we wouldn’t make them selfishly.
-Blake O. Kleiner