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The Independent Critic

Daniel Martin Berkey, Aaron Mathias and Kirsty Mears
Daniel Hahn

 "No Man's Land" Review 
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The year is 1919.

American war hero Luke Benson (Daniel Martin Berkey) has returned home to the family estate of his father (Aaron Mathias) and his step-mother (Kristy Meares). From the opening moments of No Man's Land, there is an obvious tension between this slightly damaged hero and his father, an obviously wealthy man who within moments of his son's return is plotting the son's return to the business world. It is this tension between father and son that guides the film, written and directed by Daniel Hahn.

Any number of films have both successfully and unsuccessfully told the story of the war hero returning home to an entire different life, but it is intriguing to see what amounts to a succinctly told story constructed within the span of a mere 17-minute short film. These types of period dramas are quite often cinema's longest films, patient and intentional films that favor atmosphere and relational conflict over rapid-fire conflict driven scenes and special effects. Hahn isn't building a story based upon endless points of exposition or background, but instead focusing solely upon Luke's return home and its aftermath.

Behind a strong ensemble cast, No Man's Land is a compelling and well made period drama about loyalty and the consequences of disloyalty. The strength of the film is that the spoken dialogue is matched in importance by that which is unspoken, actions and gestures and images shared between the film's trio of leading characters. As much as Luke has come home a war hero, it is readily apparent that the war is not truly over.

Alex Chinnici's lensing is solid throughout, though the film's darker settings would likely play more successful on the big screen. Robert Eletto's original music serves as a nice companion piece for the film, building tension is just the right moments.

For the most part, Hahn perfectly excises what almost feels like a piece of a bigger project. While this could make the film feel somewhat incomplete, it alternately makes these characters human beings you'd like to learn more about as their journey unfolds. If Hahn is able to create such an appealing period drama within the confines of a 17-minute film, I can't wait to see what happens when he's offered a bigger budget opportunity or a feature film.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic