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  • Brandon MacMurray

Live Action Contenders: Reviews of The One Note Man, Shadow Brother and My Nights Glow Yellow

The One Note Man, dir. George C. Siougas 


“Once upon a Christmas time there was a musical man who lived a careful life. Each day was much like the next and that was just how he liked it,” intones the familiar voice of Ian McKellan, the narrator of the charming musical romance The One Note Man. From the moment director George C. Siougas begins the film with the opening of an old storybook to show the characters within, The One Note Man is filled to the brim with holiday whimsy.  


The story’s hero—we’ll soon understand why he’s called The One Note Man—is played by Jason Watkins, as a man who goes through his morning routine like he is living through Groundhog Day. He eats the same breakfast every day, opens a door in his advent calendar, and goes over the music for the orchestra in which he plays the bassoon. Each night he heads to the concert hall, settles in his seat for the orchestra performance, and when the music climaxes, he blasts off one huge note and leaves. He goes back home alone, has a drink and gets ready for bed. 


Other than McKellan’s brief narration to set the scene, The One Note Man is a film without dialogue—but so much is said through the characters expressions and body language that the story is entirely understandable, even enhanced by a focus on showing and not telling. Watkins is on screen nearly the entire runtime of the film and conveys a vast array of emotions from loneliness to infatuation, disgrace and joy, all without saying a word. Crystal Yu gives one of the funniest performances of the year as the orchestra conductor, grimacing and scowling through performance after performance as some members of the orchestra struggle to follow her baton.  


Although the film is close variations on the same day for much of its running time, the incredibly jaunty score by composer Stephen Warbeck keeps up momentum while conveying the moods of The One Note Man. Most of the film’s best comedic beats are thanks to the ingenuity and comic timing of Warbeck’s sprightly melodies. The music keeps getting faster and faster as the days repeat, as if rushing through life, and the zippy editing by Russell Beeden matches the pace, zooming through day after day in a hilarious montage worthy of the classic screwball comedies. 


The charming performances and bright score could have made for an entertaining and light comedy on their own, but The One Note Man takes on a greater challenge and deepens as it zips along, quietly bringing in ideas of loss and grief as well as resilience and change. In a genre that can tend toward the treacly, The One Note Man is a Christmas film that tinges its sentimentality with both humour and heartbreak and is all the better for it. 

Review by: Joshua Hunt

My Nights Glow Yellow, dir. Hannah Bang

In just under twenty minutes, writer-director Hannah Bang transports viewers to a world where the solutions to our contemporary angsts around relational disconnection become just another transaction. Her short film, My Nights Glow Yellow, follows Kacie (Michelle Mao), a (platonic) companion for hire who offers her presence to her clients as they go about their quotidian tasks. For more service-oriented acts such as helping an elderly man load and unload his groceries, she would come off as any other caretaker or hired hand. It is in personal activities such as sharing a meal or being present at someone’s birthday party that complicates her vocation. How personal is she allowed to get while maintaining a degree of professionalism? Can her investment in someone’s life be turned off like a light when her time with someone ends? Given that there’s money involved, how agreeable should she be if she clashes with something a client says? The film’s central conflict begins when one of her clients asks if she would be interested in spending time together outside of their scheduled “sessions,” prompting Kacie to rethink the effect her work is having on her.

Part of what makes My Nights Glow Yellow so immersive is in how Bang builds out her vision so organically. There are no voiceovers or intro text that describe Kacie’s job, rather simply follow her as she goes about her days. We feel the tenderness of the shared connection between two strangers and awkwardness when said connection is interrupted by a notification telling her she’s spent the allotted time and is free to leave. Additionally, after learning the nuances of Kacie’s work, it raises the question of whether any relationship we see thereafter is “real.” Is a couple that we see truly a couple or is one of them a hired companion? Ultimately, what grounds viewers is Kacie’s own desires for meaningful and embodied connection. Ironically, it is due to her work that there’s no paucity of relationships in her life and yet the very nature of her work constrains how deep she can go in those relationships. There’s a sense of emptiness she feels and distance even if she is right next to someone.

This manifests in one standout sequence, when Kacie returns home slightly inebriated. While her next-door neighbors blast loud music, she begins to snack on rice cakes gifted to her by an elderly client. While she’s eating, she horrifically begins choking and attempts multiple strategies to clear her throat. The pounding base from next door’s party acts almost as a call and response to her quickened heartbeat, and a physical manifestation of her fear in that moment. Eventually, both music and heartbeat merge till the two are almost indistinguishable. It's a clever sonic moment that underscores the irony that though she’s spent her whole day with people, in the moment where she needed someone the most to help, no one was around.

I found myself mesmerized by the world Bang crafted and hope that can be blessed with the potential for further exploration in a feature length film. It’s a tender and incisive vision of the future rooted in present day questions about how human connection gets muddled once money gets involved.

My Nights Glow Yellow premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and is a part of Indeeds Rising Voices campaign, an initiative set up to discover and invest in BIPOC filmmakers and storytellers. It is qualified for the live action short category of the 2024 Academy Awards.

Review by: Zachary Lee

Shadow Brother Sunday, dir. Alden Ehrenreich

Alden Ehrenreich has been having a terrific year. He was a co-star in the comedy “Cocaine Bear”, starred alongside Phoebe Dynevor in Sundance's early hit “Fair Play”, and he was an acclaimed supporting actor in Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster “Oppenheimer”. In what couldn’t be a better year for him, he also made his directorial debut in the short film Shadow Brother Sunday, which he also wrote and starred in. The film debuted at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival and qualified for the 2024 Academy Awards through a theatrical release. 

Alden plays Cole, a depressed man who has just broken up with his girlfriend, has an awful job, and manages an unsuccessful band that he is currently financing on his own. When his brother Jacob (Nick Robinson), an actor who is home to attend the premiere of his latest work, denies to lend him U$6.000 so he can pay his rent, Cole decides to steal his brother’s laptop and sell his famous brother’s photos to the paparazzi. In just 15 minutes, Alden succeeds in building a tense drama based on each family member's micro dramas (his mother’s anxiety to do everything right, his father's pressures on his mother not to feel frustrated) The writing is clever in investing in these situations that build a bigger dramatic scope and compose a fast-paced short that intrigues the viewer. 

Another successful part of Alden's directing is choosing the camera compositions and moves that add to the tension that the writing brings. The close-up shots to his face as he walks through the house highlight a type of tension that works for this particular story. Cole's circumstances are also effectively used in tension building, such as hiding the laptop in his jacket or a bathroom emergency while he is uploading photos for a paparazzi to a cloud server. These combinations of directing and writing are great, but the level of acting delivered by Alden and Nick Robinson makes this experience truly thrilling to follow. 

Shadow Brother Sunday is a tense short that shows the potential of Alden Ehrenreich as a director. A great short that uses its simple structure to build drama and delivers a great story. A must-watch.

Review by: Pedro Lima



The short end of the stick: The inferior part, the worse side of an unequal deal

When it comes to cinema and the Oscars it always feels like short films and getting the short end of the stick. Lack of coverage, lack of predictions from experts and an afterthought in the conversation. With this site we hope to change that, highlighting shorts that stick with you, predictions, and news on what is happening in the world of shorts. 

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