›› The Last Time I Saw Richard
a short film by Nicholas Verso.
2013 | 23 mins | Australia.
starring: Toby Wallace / Jonah, Cody Fern / Richard, Brian Lipson / the Doctor, Melissa Godbold / Skinny Girl, Marta Kaczmarek / the Nurse and with Will Haines, Jack Harvey and Liam Willaton as the Darklings.
Official Synopsis: "Set in a mental health clinic for teenagers, we meet lone wolf Jonah who is forced to share a room with the newly admitted Richard. The boys form a connection based on mutual respect and some common demons; though Jonah soon discovers that not everybody wants to be saved."
Winner of the Australian Film Institute's coveted 2014 AACTA Award for the Best Short Fiction Film, this nightmarish, yet equally captivating work charts the issue of the demons that come to trouble many a teenage mind. And no more so than in Toby Wallace's achingly realistic portrayal of Jonah; seen at first as the bully of the piece, ever taking pleasure in taunting his fellow inmates, only for his cocky exterior to mask personal demons that see his arm razor cut with the physical signs of mental torment. Opting to push people away rather than make friends, all that is set to change upon the arrival of Cody Fern, (star of the Australian production of the National Theatre's celebrated War Horse), who here plays a youth who whilst introverted is not afraid to stand up for himself, albeit in an almost laconic manner, only to likewise have demons of his own, ones that literally manifest themselves in the middle of the night. Strangers at first, can they find in each other the strength to protect themselves from the shadows in the night?
The demons of a troubled mind, in The Last Time I Saw Richard.
Screened as part of the acclaimed IRIS Prize Film Festival of 2013 and produced through the Screen Australia's Springboard Initiative, here writer and director Nicholas Verso has delivered a superbly executed work that wonderfully charts the growing bond between two troubled souls and in particular how Jonah comes to rejoice in his growing friendship with Richard, to the point of being protective of him as a best friend, or lover would. Complete with many a neat narrative touch, together with some strikingly dark special effects that brilliantly underscore the supernatural element of the piece, frankly this short plays like a feature, being high in production values throughout and here cue the stunning cinematography of Stefan Duscio, even if the gay side of the story is long in coming; namely that of a sweet expression of same-sex love.
Creepy and unsettling in all the right parts, yet equally touching and tender in others, this short above all is the story of the friendship shared between two troubled young men and whilst the close of play is bittersweet, thankfully the story does not end here, given this is but the prequel to Verso's upcoming feature Boys In The Trees, a film that is set to continue the story of Jonah; two years later. Suffice to say; I cannot wait.
Gay Visibility - covert.
Nudity - from the waist up.
Overall - file under ... 4 stars.