Year Released: 2013
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 14 minutes
Stephen Herman’s short film E.M.M.A. is a sci-fi tale with at least one strong twist. The short tells the story of Emma (Charlie Gillette), a woman with a remarkable ability to memorize anything she reads, but who is simultaneously unable to remember who she is, or what happened yesterday. As she sits in a room, doctors John (Nicholas Wilder) and Carol (Kristen Carbone) grill Emma about her memory, revealing the answer to her strange condition.
Well, some answers. As I mentioned, this short has one solid twist that works as a good twist should, elevating the narrative to come before it instead of just confusing the audience with something unexpected. And that is something to be applauded here, because giving a film a twist is easy; giving it a good twist is not.
Another aspect worth kudos is the acting, as all three of the main leads play their characters in befitting fashion. Nicholas Wilder’s Dr. John, for instance, goes the Good Cop route, acting more as a sympathetic character for Emma as Kristen Carbone’s Dr. Carol aggressively, and impatiently, lights into their subject. In both instances, there is a level of nuance that isn’t clear until the film wraps up. In the middle of it all is Charlie Gillette’s robotic Emma, who breathes a softness and life into an otherwise stiff and mechanical character.
In the end, though, the strength of this one is going to reside in how the audience interprets the final twist, and what emotional stock they do or do not put in the narrative along the way. I think the film has moments of emotional engagement within the material, but there is a detached feel to things that, while making absolutely perfect sense for the story, also keeps you at arm’s length. Thus, you may find the tale interesting or intriguing, but is it something that you’ll connect with and remember? That’s debatable.
I found E.M.M.A. is be a strong entry in the science fiction short film genre, but I also didn’t connect in a way that would make this something I would watch again. I think it is well-made, and very clever, but felt more like an intellectual exercise than engaging on a more intimate level.
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