Review by Paul Burch
January 4th, 2018
An alcoholic (Joseph Shaver) finds himself being haunted by mysterious figures wearing faceless white masks in Jacob Thompson and Christian Hutchins’ 26-minute short NOT FOR ME. What starts off as something dabbling in the surreal (there’s a little bit of Bergman to the figures even though the budget limits them to the local Halloween shop variety), reveals itself to be something different entirely. NOT FOR ME isn’t necessarily the most over-endowed short when it comes to its production value but it does try to make up for it with the ideas of its screenplay, even if - on the whole - it struggles to fully engage the viewer in its world.
Part thriller by-way-of home invasion horror, part romantic comedy sans dialogue - NOT FOR ME reveals its heart more than halfway through its runtime. While our protagonist struggles to understand if what he’s facing (who’s the woman in bed with him?) is actually real or not, the viewer is unsure of the events that follow: there are dates and a blooming relationship. Is this all a dream as well? Is it a flashback? We watch to find out and the ending lets down by not really subverting the resolutions that have been done to death in “dream logic” movies for decades.
So what makes this take on a familiar story (or a bunch of familiar conventions) something not worth entirely dissing is Thompson’s screenplay. There aren’t necessarily a whole many things to take from the film that we haven’t seen before but the structure of this one is definitely something that feels aware of the pitfalls - and steps over them well enough when the direction (and overall production) can’t really do the same. Instead of starting off as a romantic drama, Thompson starts the film in a bout of sleep paralysis - showing us the masked figures immediately and presenting us with some very over-romanticized shots of our protagonist and these “figures” as they lay in the grass, touch hands and - yes - get stalked.
NOT FOR ME tries hard to be a heartfelt blend of genres which I appreciated. The main focal point is zeroed in on the lead and his love interest and the montage that follows their growth together takes up a good chunk of the film. If there was some key dialogue (maybe even extended out to feature length), the story itself could have had enough time to flesh itself out and carved more originality on its plate. Even as it sits now though, NOT FOR ME is far from a dull do-it-yourself short film (showing promise for the young Thompson/Hutchins duo). It's more inventive and different than most films you see from newer filmmakers. It just comes up a little too short (mostly due to budget and time constraints I think) of actually tugging on the heartstrings or bending the brain with its dreaminess like the duo of directors seemed to be aiming for. However, with more experience and resources, it will be very interesting to see what Jacob Thompson comes up with next as he is refreshingly starting to think outside the indie filmmaking box. You can check out more of his work at his website.