Aaron Alexander, Alyssa Roussel, Mia Rangel, Cassandra Dixson, Conrad Gonzales
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
It's always a bit of a thrill when an up-and-coming filmmaker finds his way back to The Independent Critic with a brand new film. Such is the case with writer/director Jordan Kerfeld, whose Housebreaking was previously reviewed here, who comes back with his graduate thesis film at the University of Texas - Austin.
Tears at Dawn tells the story of Arthur Orange (Aaron Alexander), a Marine who has just returned home from two tours of the Mideast well-trained in the hand-to-hand combat of Kalima and Escrima but far more concerned with the day-to-day care of his younger sister, Mya (Alyssa Roussel). When Mya sneaks out of their home to chase down the ice cream truck and ends up being kidnapped, Arthur's military training suddenly comes in handy as it takes everything he has to find his sister and get her back.
A taut and involving thriller carried by a compelling story and nicely realized performances, Tears at Dawn somehow manages to tell a complex story within the confines of a 12-minute short without losing any dramatic impact. Kerfeld edits the film to near perfection and maximizes dramatic impact by quickly drawing us into the film emotionally then allowing that emotion to fuel the action that follows. The film feels an awful lot like a covert military operation - get in, get out, and make sure the good guys come home.
Aaron Alexander's performance is the film's key ingredient and Alexander does a terrific job of getting our sympathy quickly and holding it even as he goes from big brother to major badass for all the right reasons. Alexander's chemistry with Alyssa Roussel makes their sibling relationship quickly believable, and Roussel does a terrific job in a role that's more complicated than it might first appear. Conrad Gonzales is an especially strong supporting player.
The film also benefits from strong production quality including Nathan Felix's stand-out original score, Deepak Chetty's imaginative and inspired lensing and an effective production design from Kara Konop and Christina Yoo.
Tears at Dawn is fresh off a screening at the Oscar and BAFTA qualifying LA Shorts Fest and should have no problem finding a home on the film festival circuit with its timely and relevant subject matter and top notch cast and crew. For more information on the film, be sure to visit its website linked to in the credits to the left of this review.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic