Back in the old days, I used to endlessly browse YouTube for short films; hoping I would find a hidden gem.
Don’t get me wrong, I have respect for any aspiring filmmaker but short films can be very difficult to pull off. It could certainly be said that each film deserves respect in one way or another. Every now and then, however, I would find something brilliant hidden in the corners of YouTube. Nowadays, though, Short of the Week has pretty much taken the burden of searching off my hands.
First up, we have This Time Away (2019):
Nigel is an elderly man living as a recluse, haunted by his past and memory of the family he once had, until an unexpected visitor arrives and disrupts his lonely routine.
In This Time Away, a man spends his days in sorrow over the loss of his wife. Despite the love and desire of his daughter to help care for him, he shows no interest in companionship. That is, however, until he scares away a group of kids kicking a rusty old robot near his yard. The robot, in return, insists on helping the man around the house. After some reluctance, the man lets the robots in. I will say, there is a twist at the end. A twist which I have no intention of giving away. At only fifteen minutes, it’s definitely worth a watch.
As Ivan Kander (submission manager for Short of the Week) notes,
As the world continues to exist in Covid’s shadow, there has been a lot of discussion about the kind of content we should be consuming right now. And, while many films and filmmakers are finding unintended relevance for their films in the midst of a global pandemic with themes such as social isolation or apocalyptia, I’d argue that, perhaps, something more tonally heartwarming is probably better for the soul.
Ivan definitely has a point. This Time Away feels like the kind of heart-warming film I watch after a warm cup of coffee by a dimly lit fire in a cool afternoon. To some extent, it reminds me of Robot & Frank (2012). Both are stories about the elderly finding joy and comfort through the unexpected companionship of a robot.
Our second film is something a bit different. In what feels like the beginning of an awesome animated series, Spice Frontier takes place in a future where the Earth has been destroyed and the remnants of humanity have been scattered throughout the galaxy, living amongst friendly alien species.
However, Kent, a daring chef, has embarked on a journey to find the long lost spices of earth in order to resurrect the wonderful cuisine of his ancestral homeworld. Accompanied by his companion android C-LA (one can argue that it’s the other way around), Kent makes a stop at an old space aquarium searching for a key earth ingredient, sea salt. Kent, being the clumsy mishap-prone fellow that he is, stumbles upon an enemy…
The character development is wonderful, and the setting is perfect. As the end credits rolled I instantly found myself thinking, “No! Give me more! I want to get lost in the world of Spice Frontier!”. I’m hoping to see more from Steamroller Studios soon. I would love to see this turned into a series.
Overall, both short films were well directed, and well developed. It’s certainly a nice respite from the frequent craziness of the world. I give both a solid 9/10.
For some of Adam Nieri’s introductions to more great shorts, see: My five top picks in short sci-fi from DUST at YouTube. I’m glad I decided to revisit DUST, a wonderful community of short, free sci-fi films