Short Film Review “The Second Life”



First, the Recap:

If I had only known then what I know now. It’s a familiar sentiment, often called upon when we think back on so many choices made that had we had the knowledge about the outcomes like we have in the present, we might have done things differently. Yes, it’s the longing for certain second chances, thinking how things might have been. Yet, if one were to actually experience such a journey, literally from the beginning, would it truly be the better life? On a particular stormy night, a lone man named Joseph Maria (William Galatis) comes upon the home of one Monsignor Caldas (Craig Capone), knocking on the door to gain potential entry, in order to regale the wary priest with a story–a tale about Maria’s second life.

Startled and unsure of the state of mind Maria is in, Caldas secretly sends for the local Sergeant (David Afflick) while cautiously taking in an unsettling recounting of how Maria’s first life as Phillip (Ron G. Young) ended and, at the behest of a heavenly messenger named Benedict (Michael Anthony Coppola), he was then offered a brand new life from birth into a man named John (Anthony Gaudette). John’s childhood and subsequent young adulthood, however, appears tainted by the lingering ideologies, attitudes, and decisions made in his previous incarnation, and even once he finds love in a widow Ms. Clemence (Anna Rizzo), his massively crippling inner demons rage inside him, driving her away and now an utterly crazed Joseph Maria into a frenzied state with only tragic way out.

Next, my Mind:

Taking the viewer on what can only be described as a voyage into a darkly metaphysical, fantastical, spiritual, and phantasmagorical realm of thinking for the majority of its 33-minute runtime which then offers a finale worthy of the edgiest of Shakespearean tragedies, no one should ever accuse director/screenplay writer Pedro Pimentel of having a lack of originality. Utilizing a very grounded, character-based, dialogue-driven foundation, which is what independent film thrives upon, and intermixing it with visual presentation and musical orchestration that is both ode to old time Hollywood and brooding contemporary drama, there were some instances where the effort borderlined on almost trying too hard to be more epic in scale than it really is. Still, anchored by a solid cast and the uniqueness of the overall delivery, the film overcomes this to good effect, though once again, the viewer does need to understand this is a “talking heads”-style project, and may not appeal to everyone equally, since it does require patience and focus to grasp the myriad of philosophical concepts presented.

One absolute without question, however, is Galatis’ performance as Joseph Maria, a man undone, unstable, and on the edge who’s found he desperately needs to tell his unearthly tale specifically to a priest, which in itself plays into events as they unfold, all while mainly trying to absolve his own tortured conscious and the realization that having been given a new chance to live life over didn’t yield the kind of bliss he most likely pictured. Rather, the remnants of his former life bleed into his new one, and having the knowledge of so many things in advance only ends up increasing his phobias and doubts to higher degrees, even as he attempts to avoid repeating them. Galatis navigates this ever-fluctuating mood and building state of pent-up turmoil very, very well. Capone’s role as Monsignor Caldas, a devout man of the cloth who’s more than slightly uneasy in the presence of a possible lunatic, is enacted wonderfully here. The calm outer demeanor and listening ear belies the fearfulness inside him as Maria’s story is presented, yet Caldas remains vigilant to his calling and expected manner while always hinting at the unspoken wish to be rid of this danger. When the finale comes, Capone releases Caldas’ inner panic with poise.

Supporting turns are aplenty here, including Young as the first incarnation of the story’s primary antagonist, Phillip, Coppola as the angelic and eventually demonic presence that guides both Phillip and John/Joseph Maria, Gaudette as John, the second life of Phillip, who’s own past with its knowledge becomes his undoing, Rizzo as the widow Clemence, who seems to be John’s true love until his own paranoia drives her away, and Afflick as the town Sergeant whose final showdown with Maria has but one inevitability. Additional turns are presented by Peter Lewis Walsh, Emily Pattison, Peter Hoey, and Chris Nina among others.  In total, “The Second Life” is a surrealist vision of reincarnation infused with ideas about how we as human beings face the inevitability of our decisions throughout life, the ramifications of them, and realizing that even in the times of regretting some choices made, it’s all a part of this grand odyssey we call life, one that we can be thankful for and relish, trials and all, while we await whatever might come next.

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



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