Short Film Review “Condemned”

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First, the Recap:

What hope does one have when Death Row is called home? Having only finite time to reflect, ponder, and recollect past deeds–mostly bad–that have ultimately caused your fate to be determined once and for all. Yes, what possible cause could there be to have any expectation or desire?  It is 1971, and an unnamed Death Row inmate (Daniel Wyland) sits calmly and begins to give account of the actions that lead to his incarceration and subsequent sentence to die. It is a tale filled with everything from anger, sadness, regret, and intentionality to find some semblance of peace before the end.

Reminiscing about how much his mother attempted to sway his wayward path, despite having her own demons to battle, his road still took the twisted route. Fighting against the world, circumstance upon circumstance built up until one fateful night of partying causes his arrest, with charges well beyond drunk and disorderly leveled against him. Revisiting the entire event, it becomes more and more apparent there’s a fear, a nagging sense of loneliness, and a desperation to be remembered exuding from him. But, with execution imminent, what happens when reality and eternity’s lines are blurred?

Next, my Mind:

Director Steven Biver and writer Legrand McMullen’s 13-minute short film effort is immersed in an eerily atmospheric, highly potent, yet grounded sense of actuality in its portrayal of one man’s narrative ode to an existence interrupted by a dysfunctional upbringing and poor choices. For all the chances he tried to take in order to avoid “the life”, it ultimately found its way into his being, and down a road to ruin he traversed. Thanks to its intentionally sparse, straightforward cinematography and strangely evocative, intermittent music score, the viewer is totally pulled into the soon-to-be-ended world of this convicted individual, and does so in a way that causes one to try and ascertain exactly what this person’s frame of mind and outlook on things really is–and whether there’s more than just a worldly setting being experienced.

Wyland is truly excellent in his role as the inmate, totally embodying the character and infusing him with a completely believable symphony of emotions in reliving everything that’s brought him to his end. Yet all the while, with images flashing in his mind’s eye as both reminder of what’s transpired and, perhaps, what is yet to come beyond death, his additional sense of hesitant and questioning wonder comes through, and Wyland emotes this so well and with a quiet, keenly understated, yet acutely determined resolve. Additionally, the single actor presentation here works incredibly well, and really adds to the depth and engagement with the character that Biver and McMullen were striving for.

In total, “Condemned” is a solidly written, wonderfully acted, and intelligently put together indie effort very much worth consideration and enjoyment.  It illustrates how indie filmmakers love to go outside the box, challenging our notions of reality, and allowing us to still be entertained even when having to think a little bit along the way.

As always, this is all for your consideration and comment.  Until next time, thank you for reading!

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