Review by Mark Schwab
October 12th, 2018
Suicide rates are rising in the United States; an almost 30% increase since 1999. Many things could be pointed at regarding the cause of such alarming numbers but I doubt the survivors spend much time breaking down the psychological and environmental causes. All most of us want to do is help in some way, any way, to try and talk to the person suffering to just hang on for one more day and see if things could get better.
L. Marcus Williams' short film LIFELINE takes the inherently tense premise of a desperate person calling a suicide hotline and putting the ball in the court of the counselor to give them a reason to keep living. We've seen this basic set-up done before in Sydney Pollack's THE SLENDER THREAD and, full disclosure, Diamond in the Rough Films' own upcoming feature SHADOWS IN MIND. Refreshingly, Williams has come up with a truly insightful short film that keeps you absorbed through the entire running time.
It wastes no time introducing us to Iris (Katlin Leslie) calling a suicide hotline simply to say goodbye to someone. She gets connected with Ray (Dan Parilis), a hotline volunteer who listens carefully as Iris declares herself ready to die by overdose. That first connection between Iris and Ray is critical in establishing the "relationship" between them; if Williams' screenplay or the actor's performances were off by so much as a micron it would undermine the entire short with no time to recover. Thankfully, those performances are beautifully handled with Katlin Leslie's Iris convincingly in crisis and Dan Parilis' Ray projecting competence and empathy with complete authenticity. There isn't a single false second between them.
As a director, Williams effectively uses a split screen and subtle color saturation to visually show the characters' states of mind and the inescapable intimacy that occurs when someone's life is literally on the line. It's also to his credit that the screenplay is not predictable and the ending packs a surprisingly sophisticated punch for a short film.
Williams has stated publicly that he has experienced both sides of suicide - that as survivor and hotline operator - and he has used those experiences perfectly to create an important short film that grips you and educates you about the fine line a suicide hotline counselor has to walk when trying to help someone in crisis. LIFELINE was a National Board of Review grant winner along with a number of 2018 film festival awards and it's not hard to see why; this is a very moving experience and could obviously only have been made by the talented L Marcus Williams.
You can keep up with L Marcus Williams through his website www.aflyonthe4thwall.com