I will confess that I cringe a little bit inside every single time a new sci-fi short crosses my desk, mostly owing to my lengthy history of low-to-middling ratings for one of the most challenging genres to pull off both with a low-budget and within the confines of your usual less than 30 minute short film.
So, you can likely picture that cringe happening when I opened up my e-mail and found The Chosen, a 15-minute sci-fi short written and directed by Donnell Henry that had, at least in my mind, all the makings of yet another disappointment.
Fortunately, I do a pretty darn stellar job at keeping an open mind with every film I review.
Even more fortunately?
I was wrong.
The Chosen is a unique, involving sci-fi short that weaves together its sci-fi core with a richness of humanity and a story that grabs you, involves you, twists a little bit then ultimately leaves you incredibly satisfied all within the confines of that relatively slight 15 minutes. While The Chosen could easily be a longer film, even potentially a feature-length one, the truth is it works just fine the way it is with universal themes that play out rather intimately.
In the film, we're introduced to Rae (Kelly Wray) as she's walking along what appears to be your ordinary, everyday lakeside with her boyfriend Frank (Frank Galdorise).
Of course, this is a sci-fi short. There's more to Rae than we know right away and this sure isn't your ordinary, everyday lakeside.
Frank? Well, um, yeah.
It's not long before the usual romantic banter turns into something decidedly more involved, sort of a sci-fi version of that romantic line of questioning that starts off with "What would you do if?" that you always know is a trick question with an underlying agenda.
It's also not long before The Chosen's sci-fi roots reveal themselves courtesy of a curious being known as The Entity, an indescribable being who seemingly suggests that this encounter between Rae and Frank has been a failure and the entire planet may yet have a price to pay.
Donnell Henry presents all of this beautifully and patiently, the film's storyline unfolding at a breezy yet gentle pace and the relationships unfolding here feeling about as genuine and authentic as they possibly could. The playfulness between Frank and Rae gives way to a deeper, even more soulful conversation that unfolds when Rae has a chance encounter with a mysterious character played by the consummately charming Tee Williams.
Surprisingly satisfying visual effects are woven into the fabric of the film, adventurous but not beyond the realm of low-budget indie filmmaking and quite beautifully manifested in a way that convinces and never jerks you out of the story as it unfolds. With the exception of music provided by Frances Elizee, Henry seems to have handled a good majority of the film's production himself including lensing, editing, and special effects.
The film's real master stroke is the casting of Kelly Wray as Rae, whose ability to weave together vulnerability with super coolness gives us a character we never quite figure out until it's time to figure her out. It's a tremendous performance, charismatic and an absolute blast to watch. Frank Galdorise gives the film just the right hint of humor, while Tee Williams embodies a soulfulness that immerses you in the film's deeper significance.
Intellectually satisfying and visually appealing, The Chosen is a winner from beginning to end and transcends the usual sci-fi short obstacles with intelligence and creativity. If you get a chance, definitely check it out.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic