Hey, friends! Barbarella here. I always enjoy seeing first-timers put something out for the world to see, and Blake Ridder’s debut feature HELP proves you can make a decent movie with a crew small enough that you won’t need three or four songs to accompany the closing credits. HELP is currently available on demand and digital.
In the film, when Grace experiences a break-up, she goes to stay with friend Liv and Liv’s husband, but something doesn’t feel right about the couple, and Grace’s presence only seems to exacerbate matters.
This psychological thriller does not slow-burn its way to the end, rather it simmers through most of its short run-time. Presenting questions early on well serves those who like to actively engage in theories while watching movies. However, it does little to engage viewers who want to be thrilled from the start without exerting much mental effort of their own. The latter most likely would not enjoy the film, but I find it mostly engaging thanks largely to the visuals, which prove both interesting and stimulating, at times. I appreciate many of the choices surrounding shot compositions and camera movement. One dynamic shot in the kitchen delights me, and I appreciate what goes into making that happen.
What I don't appreciate so much are the characters, especially the women. They prove so unlikeable that it’s challenging to stand in their corners. They are awful, just awful. From the beginning, when Grace gets dumped, my sympathy lies with the guy dumping her. I’ve done the long-distance-dating thing, and I agree 100% with everything he says to her. Her reaction only aggravates me. She comes across excessively self-serving and uncaring, and those qualities don’t make for a great protagonist. While she has moments that attempt to make her come across as more compassionate, the first impression has already made her seem like the compassion is only an act. HELP could have benefited from more character development, as these characters are primarily one-dimensional, and that dimension may best be categorized as jerk.
Another mild aggravation lies in the portrayal of another character involved in a particular situation. I don’t buy the scenario at all because I couldn’t believe that the character would have been acting that way under those circumstances, not in the real world. However, certain facts divulged late in the story validate my opinion and allow me, in hindsight, to better understand and appreciate what was really occurring.
While the performances sometimes hit and sometimes don’t, I suspect that has as much to do with the writing as anything else. Some of the dialogue lacks a natural, conversational quality, and actors seemingly struggle with some lines yet deliver others beautifully, which seems to relate to how natural the words feel coming off the tongue.
Despite the fact that my criticisms seem to occupy more space than my praise in this review, I actually enjoy the award-winning film, overall. I like the weird neighbor, David, played by director Blake Ridder. I also find some of the messaging in the film interesting and unique. It brings up topics that I wish more films would explore. While I don’t love everything about it, I find enough I appreciate that I have to commend the small crew on its efforts. HELP proves quite the accomplishment given its limited resources. I look forward to seeing how Blake Ridder’s filmmaking evolves over time.
Here's the super-spoilery trailer.