Marc Powers, Jordan Tofalo, Jen Drummond
When we first meet Caleb (Marc Powers), it seems as if his life is idyllic. He has a beautiful partner, Aimee (Jordan Tofalo), who obviously adores him. His New England oceanside home is the place that dreams are made of.
Life seems perfect.
However, things are not perfect. Caleb awakens from this dream of life past amidst the isolated abandonment of a manufacturing facility where he seems to exist alone as a survivor of an unnamed extinction level event. He is no longer the clean-shaven, handsome man that once existed but the disheveled man fighting for survival amidst a world he doesn't seem to understand and which never becomes much clearer in Evan Schneider's 22-minute short film Amaranthine. Post-apocalyptic films are a dime a dozen, especially in the world of indie cinema. This seems to be especially true in a pandemic-tinged America where people are rightfully on edge as we vacillate between countries threatening nuclear war and politicians more concerned with partisan posturing than public service.
The world is frightening. The opening scenes of Amaranthine are frightening, perhaps moreso for those of us who recognize Sanford, Maine's abandoned International Woolen Company complex that serves as the opening locale for the film and has its own reputation for being haunted. It's this fear that serves as a tour guide for the melancholy and introspective Amaranthine, a film more concerned with loss and grief, love and intimacy than it is the universal aspects of a post-apocalyptic world. Caleb is grieving the loss of Aimee, though one of the strengths of Amaranthine is that we're never quite sure if she's really lost even with a quietly climactic scene that provides a semblance of tacked-on resolution.
Caleb's world begins to change when he discovers another survivor, Shay (Jen Drummond), while exploring one of the myriad of abandoned homes he finds as he wanders looking for nothing in particular yet everything. It is a fireside chat between Caleb and Shay that serves as the centerpoint for Amaranthine, a film that tells a refreshingly original story even if it never quite develops as much as we wish it would.
The apocalyptic event itself is never revealed. This is, for the most part, to the benefit of the story as we're not consumed by that trauma but more focused on Caleb and his journey. While I can't help but wish I'd had more opportunities for emotional resonance within the film's minimalized storytelling, Ben Heald's lensing for the film immerses us in this world and Schneider's own editing practically demands we linger inside the experience.
Among the key players, Jen Drummond is the strongest with a performance that seems to lean into the film's themes of longing for connection and life. The moment she arrives, Drummond lights up the screen and you immediately sense her importance to the unfolding story.
Amaranthine picked up the prize for Best Performance Short at the Shawna Shea Film Festival. It's a rewarding, thought-provoking short that lingers in the psyche' long after the closing credits have rolled. While you may be saying to yourself that you don't need yet another post-apocalyptic short, Amaranthine tells a quietly original story that is worth your time if you get the chance to check it out.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic