Written and Directed by
Linda Rodriguez, Coby Batty, Kera O'Bryon
The directorial debut of writer/director Abraham Vilchez-Moran, Almost Human is described by the director as an "experimental mood piece" and, indeed, this 10+ minute short film is a film that packs both an emotional and intellectual wallop courtesy of Moran's compelling script and D.P. Ben Dyer's stark, menacing camera work.
Almost Human follows Suzanne (Linda Rodriguez), a young woman who wakes up on a beach with no memory of her past with the exception of an awareness that her son is missing and she must find him. Suzanne has a mysterious encounter with a couple walking along the beach, Roman (Coby Batty) and Michelle (Kera O'Bryon), a couple who are clearly major players in everything that is about to unfold.
What exactly does unfold?
The joy of Almost Human is its mystery and Moran's refusal to define what's going on for the audience. Essentially about the darkness of a world enveloped by technology, Almost Human follows one woman's seeming loss of humanity and her desperate fight to grasp it once again.
Moran is blessed with a gifted veteran cast, a rarity for a first-time filmmaker. Rodriguez manages to exude both a frenzied panic as she attempts to understand the world around her along with a surprising warmth that makes her desperation to find her son that much more involving. Batty has a presence not far removed from the mad scientist in the recent sci-fi thriller Human Centipede, the sort of guy you'd happily find yourself talking to until it was too late to get away. In a similar sense, Kera O'Bryon gives a chilling performance as a woman whose faux warmth quickly gives way to the sort of robotic charm that would make HAL cower.
Tech credits are solid throughout, including Dyer's camera work, terrific music by We Are Trees and a sound mix by Derrick Collins that transcends the usual for a lower-budget indie short. It's difficult to pinpoint exactly why Almost Human doesn't quite hit a home run, but much of it comes down to the film, on occasion, having too strong a feeling of intentionality about it - in other words, some shots feel intentionally lingering, some close-ups feel like they intend to draw out emotions, some lines even feel spoken with an intentionally dramatic intensity that distracts more than it impacts. While these scenes are the exception and not the rule, they did pull me out of the story and, more importantly, the mood when they occurred.
That said, Almost Human is just getting ready to start its festival run and will undoubtedly be tweaked along the way given the usual audience and festival responses. Minor concerns aside, Almost Human is actually a rather remarkable debut for a first-time filmmaker and is so crisp and clear in its vision and artistry that you can't help but look forward to the next film from Abraham Vilchez-Moran.