As Llamada begins, we hear the strained relationship between father and daughter in the words spoken from miles apart on a phone call.
The father, Antonio (Mathias Retamal), has long been divorced and absent from his daughter's life. His words speak of regret yet determination to somehow make amends for a childhood lost.
The daughter, Marcela (Jamie Lee Reichert), is on campus in Saint Louis eagerly anticipating her first class on her first day of college. This not a phone call she wishes to have, her first class only minutes away.
Words are spoken in anger and frustration. The tension is palpable.
Then, the shots ring out faintly yet ringing across the phone line as if they are right next to us.
Writer/director Yousuf Pirzada's award-winning short film Llamada tells a familiar story, one that a good majority of us have not lived yet a story that we hear about and we read about in the newspapers on a regular basis.
We read the news, yet we don't understand and inside we thank God that we don't understand. It's not personal for us.
We mumble our political views, sometimes before the crime site is even cleaned up..."It's not about the guns..."..."There are too many guns..."
We criticize each other for politicizing tragedy. Then, we do it some more.
For Marcela and Antonio, it is personal and it is tragic and it feels as if it's unfolding in real time in this intimate and suspenseful short film that visually focuses on Antonio while enveloping us in the words spoken by a terrified Marcela.
Mathias Retamal captures Antonio beautifully, avoiding histrionics yet capturing the undeniable drama of knowing that someone you love needs you and there is, quite literally, not a single thing you can do. You can feel in his words that he is reminded of past failures and this time, this time, he doesn't want to fail his daughter again. He wants to be there.
But he can't. Or can he?
We only experience Marcela by voice, but oh my what a voice brought to life by Jamie Lee Reichert. From the defensive posturing of a fractured relationship to the young adult screams and fears of a young woman having left childhood but not nearly enough of an adult to be placed into the situation in which she now finds herself. Her words, crafted by Pirzada, are spoken eloquently yet immersively. We feel her in every fiber of our being.
Llamada is a low-budget effort by Pirzada, a film that picked up multiple prizes at indie and microcinema fests before the fest scene succumbed to a health pandemic that's either shut it down or turned it into a virtual experience. It's filmed in color, yet it feels like black-and-white. It feels like shadows are bouncing off the wall, Kaan Oztoprak's lensing capturing tense words and the unknowing that lingers in the air.
There are no side distractions here. There's no original score that amps up the dramatics, because such escalation isn't necessary. There are no unnecessary visual effects or gimmicks.
There's father. There's daughter.
At times a difficult film to watch, or perhaps more accurately to listen to, Llamada is a riveting and involving film that deserves our attention. The film is available for Amazon Prime members at no cost and is a film that warrants our attention and warrants our action.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic