I have learned by now that whenever I see the name Jenn Plotzke attached to a film, I'm in for a special treat.
Such is the case with writer/director Ben McHugh's lovely and emotionally honest six-minute short film Gregory for which Plotzke serves as co-producer, a film telling the story of an old man whom we meet while he's feeding the pigeons on what we soon learn is his birthday. It's clear in the opening seconds of Gregory that this old man, Gregory is his name, is living a life not so much of his choosing as it is a life thrust upon him from choices made in his younger years. The man, played with dignified resignation by Godfrey J. Rayner, is a likable chap though you can't help but wonder if he has anyone who, well, actually likes him.
It is in this park where he sits alone, perhaps people watching though even at only six minutes McHugh doesn't reveal his cinematic cards too early. As the story in Gregory unfolds, Gregory's story itself becomes somewhat revealed yet never overly prescribed. Gregory is refreshingly intelligent in its approach. McHugh clearly trusts his audience to understand the story at hand and this small yet impactful cast hits all the right notes.
Rayner is exceptional as Gregory, who lives with both regret and a sense of injustice. There is very little that actual happens within Gregory's six-minute running time. Instead, we're left with getting to know this elderly man seemingly seeking for the forgiveness that never seems to arrive.
As a young girl playing in the park with her father, Madelyn McHugh is an absolute gem filled with a natural innocence and curiosity. She is kind to this elderly man after she swats a soccer ball his way, perhaps uncommonly so, and one can't help but get the sense that her birthday wish to him may very well be the only one he will hear this day. McHugh himself stars as the father, curious about his daughter's encounter with this man and triggered into emotionally honest remembrance.
Gregory is a lovely short film. It travels far in its few minutes of storytelling, Ivan Georgiev's original music perfectly complementing the film and Zach Cooper's lens capturing all the moments including absolutely sublime closing moments.
It would be difficult to say much else about Gregory without giving it all away and that would be an injustice to this simple, emotionally impactful film. Gregory is already proving to be a success on the indie fest circuit with prizes at The Brightside Film Festival (Best Short Short), New York International Film Awards (Best Actor - Rayner), Amsterdam Short Film Festival (Best Youth Actor/Actress - McHugh) and others.
An immensely satisfying film, Gregory continues on its indie fest run and is definitely worth your time if you get the chance to check it out.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic