The Critic is a slick short film, with a look that belies its low budget and great performances, but the internal logic doesn’t really work. The story of an award-winning actress who is interviewed by a mysterious figure. It begins innocuously enough, but when the interview begins to take on a more personal tone, things get uncomfortable.
It’s a beautifully shot film, with some inventive camerawork and exceptional use of lighting. It feels incredibly sophisticated and mature for a short film. It’s even more impressive given the very limited location, and director Stella Velon still manages to find one interesting shot after another. The central performance from Velon herself is incredibly layered, as her insecurities and vulnerabilities rising to the surface with every probing question. This is even more commendable as she’s essentially the only actor on-screen for the duration of the film.
As the shadowy interviewer, Alan Smyth is wonderfully smug and condescending – his chuckle is particularly well observed and smarmy! However this leads to the film’s central issue. I just don’t buy that anyone would subject themselves to an interview that essentially amounts to abuse, or put up with the interviewer’s cruel, mocking tone. It might seem trivial, but a real person would just walk out and there’s no reason given as to why she wouldn’t just leave. I also wasn’t convinced by the ending; the interview is too blatantly provocative to plausibly affect someone to the extent it does here, and the stakes are never high enough for the dramatic ending to feel justified.
Even with these caveats, The Critic is well written, stunningly shot with a beautifully observed performance at its centre. As a short film it’s affecting, and a brilliant showcase for Velon, who is clearly incredibly talented, and one to watch out for.