Thursday, June 28, 2012

What is Missing in The Melancholy Fantastic? A Movie Review

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Director/writer: A.D. Calvo.

Cast: Amy Crowdis, Robin Taylor, Josh Caras, Geneva Carr, and David Pirrie.

This reviewer is a big fan of A.D. Calvo's previous film endeavor, The Other Side of the Tracks (aka The Haunting of Amelia). However, his latest production, The Melancholy Fantastic, is such a small film that tone and pacing are almost forgotten in the first two acts. Calvo offers another curious open ending, but The Melancholy Fantastic is more depression than extraordinaire. In the end, this critic was left with the question: what is missing? And, this review will offer a few answers.

The film focuses centrally on Melanie played by Amy Crowdis (Breadcrumbs). Her mother recently passed away after a suicide attempt. Now, Melanie is alone in her house. Her schizophrenic thoughts keep her company while inciting her to murder. Then, Dukken (Robin Taylor) enters the picture. Will he turn her away from a self-destructive path or will he just become a victim?

That question is answered late in the film and some fans might not enjoy the journey getting there. The Melancholy Fantastic is a small film. From production to characters, there is little that is elaborate. The primary cast consists of two actors. There are a couple of smaller characters on the periphery. Surely another character or two could have been added to keep events on screen more entertaining. As well, the music is sparse, directing techniques are simple and only a few sets are used. Indie filmmaking is being damaged by film piracy, so budget's are being reduced. But, there needed to be more here in The Melancholy Fantastic to keep scenes more lively.

The crux of the film lies in the lack of tension, conflict and intimacy. Even the one fear inducing homage to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho could have been expanded into additional scenes. Instead, this viewer grew tired of watching Melanie prepare peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. These scenes could have been left on the cutting room floor. There is some tension and conflict between Melanie and her dead mother through imaginary voices; yet, all of this interaction comes through the use of dialogue only. There is very little confrontation to be found here. Finally, the friendship between Dukken and Melanie could have been developed further. If they had become intimate, then would Melanie succumb to her mother's voice or would she choose love instead? This addition would have made for a more meaningful finale.

Thus, The Melancholy Fantastic felt a little flat for this reviewer. The tone is especially lacking. This is A. D. Calvo's first film in a series of three films titled the "Gothic Mental Illness Tragedies." There are few goth elements here. Settings are bright, ghosts do not appear and there is very little gloom. While mental illness is shown believably in Melanie's character, it would have been interesting to see how other characters reacted to her voices. There is just too much missing in this film.

A. D. Calvo does show his knack for leaving his film with an open ending and one character's repetitive appearance is never explained. Open endings in film are preferred to closed endings in this reviewer's opinion. This film leaves the viewer questioning: what happens next? This viewer has a thought or two, but the interpretations should be left to others. Also, a fatherly figure roams around Melanie's small town in a red car. Why is he there so often? He might be another example of Melanie's mental illness. After all, do any other characters see him?

The Melancholy Fantastic is slow through the first two acts and this is a small production. Some fans might enjoy the intimacy between so few characters, but this reviewer prefers more elaborate social scenarios. Pacing is an issue. Only in the final few scenes do events pick up. And, it is here where conflict and tension finally emerge. After an hour of film, how many people will still be watching?

Overall: 6 out of 10 (acting is good, small story, little tension, open ending, some tragedy, more Hitchcock references needed).

*scheduled for release later this year on DVD through Lightning Entertainment.

The film's fan page is here for further details:

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