Written and Directed by
Robert P. Campbell, Michael Greenley, Jr., Laura Strugar, Haley Erickson
It can be so incredibly simple.
A hug. A kind word. A small, meaningful gift. A coin. An unexpected act of mercy.
It can be so simple to change the life of another human being...if we're only paying attention. Are we? You and I? Paying attention?
In her debut as a writer and director, veteran actress Sharon Wright has crafted a heartfelt, beautifully realized short film evolving around an obviously homeless man (Robert P. Campbell) whose actions on this one particular day transcend his seemingly humble reality with an even more humbling presence of simple grace, precious kindness and silent service.
One of the true joys of Change for a Dollar is that Wright wisely realizes that what is happening on screen goes beyond the spoken word and, as a result, much of the film itself is performed with nary a word spoken. Instead, Wright relies on the power of the story itself and the actors who are bringing it to life.
The approach works beautifully.
As the film opens, our unidentified homeless man sits in a storefront with his stereotypical cardboard sign stereotypically begging for whatever change he can accumulate. Before long, he heads off with change in hand to the neighborhood country store.
I'll confess. "Heading to the liquor section," I found myself thinking.
In the matter of just over ten minutes, Change for a Dollar turns upside down everything we expect and everything we think we know in telling the story of this man who manages, in the true spirit of giving, to give more in one day than most of us will give in our lives.
Oh, it's not that he gives vast amounts of money or priceless jewels or even hundreds of volunteer hours. Not at all. Instead, this quiet servant changes hearts and lives by listening, observing, watching, supporting and, yes, giving in ways that manifest enormous transformation from just a little change.
As the homeless man, Robert P. Campbell never utters a word yet speaks volumes with his eyes and body language. Campbell manages to elicit both sympathy and awe without ever descending into unnecessary histrionics or self-pity. Instead, Campbell embodies a man who manages plant seeds of hope and change despite the challenges that surround his very existence. As a young boy who discovers this homeless man's quiet compassion, Michael Greenley, Jr. exudes the look of a young boy who believes himself to have seen an angel. Laura Strugar and Haley Erickson are also solid in Wright's stellar ensemble cast.
While Change for a Dollar is just a touch dark in a couple of the film's night scenes and once or twice becomes a bit heavy handed with its message, Director of Photography Kendal Sinn nicely blends the starkness of our key character's situation with change that seems to follow him everywhere he goes. Sinn has a gift for patiently capturing facial expressions, allowing the camera to linger on words, on gestures and on the acts unfolding before our eyes. Sinn's camera work is perfectly complemented by Christopher Komsthoeft's genuinely moving original score.
Reminiscent of Kurt Kuenne's award-winning Validation, Change for a Dollar is a tremendous first flick from Sharon Wright that should experience great success on the film festival circuit and would be right at home at Indy's own Heartland Film Festival with its powerful message affirming the power of one person to create change in ways big and small. Having just finished production, Change for a Dollar is just now starting its festival run. If you get a chance, The Independent Critic highly recommends you check it out.