Short Film Review “Emotional Motor Unit”

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First, the Recap:

Instinct. Passion. Intuition. Sentiment. Factors that make us human, comprising the epicenter of our state of being able to feel, to experience, to know the world around us with fervor and curiosity, taking in what we learn in order to apply it towards our existence and interaction with others. If such connection is, however, suppressed or made unimportant–who or what do we really become? Isolated and effectively cheerless in an unconventional reality, Writer (Graham Cawte) succumbs to the rigors of his almost absurdly mundane routine. Uninspired, going through the motions he’s always enacted daily which subdue him into a condition of perpetual melancholy, a trip to his workplace brings an unexpected turn in meeting with the office Agent (Finnian Nainby-Luxmore). A promotion and new assignment.

Unsure of himself yet still “thrilled” with the offer, Writer accepts the new challenge with another twist to it all–he will briefly have a companion to influence, energize, and motivate him in creating the required fictional work–an E.M.U. Robot (Francesca Burgoyne). Created to learn by observing people, as laid out in its design by the Programmer (Candice Palladino), Writer takes to his new companion with an initial, hesitant fascination. Soon, though, as the E.M.U. begins to ask questions about facets of Writer’s activities and work, she opens the door to the beauty, delight, and complexity of life itself to him, something Writer has been blind to inhabiting a world where work is king and emotion is controlled or smothered. By the time Writer’s E.M.U. is reclaimed by The Company, much to his and her consternation, Writer realizes what has been missing and the release brings frustration but also insight and originality.

Next, my Mind:

Director/co-producer Adam Nelson and writer/co-producer Xenia Puiggros’ 22-minute short film is an absolutely excellent, albeit sobering, tour-de-force of equally poignant, stirring, heart-rending, heartwarming, haunting, and character-driven sci-fi drama that paints an all-too-potent tapestry highlighting the inherent dangers of a society marred by flawed focus and quelled spirit. Utilizing stark, muted settings and cinematography to capture and emphasize the essence of a repetitive, wearisome, and labor-intense actuality, the primary character’s journey to his sudden “escape” and revelatory new awareness of the real world and its treasures as introduced by his E.M.U. is nothing short of magical in its execution. The suitably atmospheric soundtrack from Imraan Husain also adds an amazing element to the proceedings, helping to draw the viewer in more deeply.

Cawte is sublime in his portrayal of Writer, presenting such a forlorn, emotionally devoid, and isolated soul whose entire being is truly governed by The Company he’s employed by and who strives to have working as the dominate force in life while maintaining the means to subjugate its employees via pills. Writer’s awakening is filled with such overwhelmingly affecting moments, it becomes a catalyst for inner release he never could have expected or even known existed.  Likewise, Burgoyne’s E.M.U. is so effectively and emotively depicted by the actress, infusing the learning robot with more humanity than any of the actual people around her. In being Writer’s friend, E.M.U. finds a level of understanding in his newfound cognizance to experience a rebirth of her own, even to the point of knowing actual fear of being taken away from her “mentor”. The sequences shared by the two actors are greatly touching yet agonizing as well.

Solid supporting turns from Nainby-Luxmore as the basically “robotic” Agent of The Company, coldly focused, tunnel-visioned, and oddly disengaged despite his position of power and Palladino as the Programmer, whose own sense of how her creations are supposed to act and interact with their assigned employees gets a tad shaken up perhaps in seeing how E.M.U. bonds with Writer.  Overall, “Emotional Motor Unit” is one fantastic piece of science fiction brilliance in its flair, artistry, and ability to make us all look at exactly what it means to be human.

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

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