›› Absence of Love
a short film by Billy Gerard Frank.
2012 | 20 mins | US.
principal players: Ernest Waddell / James, Marc Damon Johnson / Samuel, Devin Norik / Michael, Rob Morgan / Walter, Lolita Brinkley / Nora, Sean Loftus / Jonathan, Dierdra McDowell / Cecila, Derrick L Middleton / Young James, Daniel Boisrond / Teenage James and Alseny Frederick as Teenage Samuel.
Adapted Synopsis: "Returning home to attend the funeral of a father whose prejudiced views forced him to leave the family home as a young man, openly gay James is forced to come to terms with his father's death, together with his relationship with his estranged brother Samuel and his once passionate love for his boyfriend Michael."
Inspired by and indeed incorporating the words of novelist and playwright James Baldwin, this multi-layered work from writer and director Billy Gerard Frank makes for a highly impressive debut. For quality is the calling card of this short film, as evident from the attention to detail of the cinematography and set designs, to the touching storyline, as delivered in the achingly real performances throughout. Then again, this is equally a work in which the narrative itself hits home, capturing the deep rooted alienation of gay youth in the African American experience and here cue the turbulent relationship between James and his father; a former minister of a small Atlanta parish and a man whose homophobic views and aversion to the world of art and literature, saw James make a sharp exit to New York to forge a living as an artist, into which the love of his life would appear.
Love does not begin and end the way we think it does, in Absence of Love.
Only that was then and this is now, given this beautifully unhurried short crosscuts past and present time frames, with the often poignant dialogue between James and his brother Samuel, now a minister himself, not only the long overdue conversation that the brothers never had, until now that is, but a revealing insight into their relationship, in times past.
In short, this is a work about love - lost and found, as the brothers set about making amends, only for the relationship between James and his boyfriend Michael clearly one that has seen better days. It's a theme reflected in the narrative, that of a telling voiceover that sets out to question - what is love? Indeed, what are relationships? And how and in the words of James Baldwin: "love does not begin and end the way we think it does". Wonderfully played by Ernest Waddell and Marc Damon Johnson as the siblings renewing their brotherly love and accompanied by the bewitching The River score by Ketil Bjornstad and David Darling, that of a match made in cinematic heaven, this moving, character-driven piece above all exemplifies what dedicated storytelling is all about. Simply captivating.
Gay Visibility - overt.
Nudity - from the waist up.
Overall - file under ... 4 stars.