A Million Eyes has a strong premise: “A young photographer, grappling with his mother’s alcoholism, sets out to capture his own truth.”
It stars newcomer Elijah M. Cooper as Leroy, a young man living with his mother who is fighting her demons and trying her best to stay sober. The father is no longer around having been killed in action fighting for the army.
Leroy has a passion, and that passion is photography. He cuts out pictures from magazines, books, whatever he can find, and sticks the to his wall. It’s this that winds him in jail when he attempts to cut a photograph from a book in a store.
Whilst in jail he meets Pyro, Shareef Salahuddin (“Turnt”), who does nothing but draw, morning, noon and night. Even at lunchtime, Pyro is sat drawing. Leroy is fascinated and learns that Pyro met his muse at a nearby spot, and that inspired him to work hard and keep drawing.
Leroy heads down to the same spot, whilst on his way he meets a friendly old gentleman Fern, Joe Morton (“Godzilla: King Of The Monsters“, “Justice League“), who is also into photography and begins to act as Leroy’s mentor, eventually.
Fern tells Leroy to photograph something that means something to him, something he loves. So, he asks his mum Amber, Katie Lowes (“Zootropolis”, “Ralph Breaks The Internet“), who gets all dolled up for him.
However, on the way home, she bumps into some old friends outside a bar and, despite being over a month clean, breaks and ends up getting drunk, rather than going back to her son who is waiting for her.
A Million Eyes has a strong message about the arts and how important it is to pass knowledge and expertise on to the next generation, and how important it is to recognise that talent in the younger generation.
It’s a great message, and the short is wonderfully directed by Richard Raymond (“Souls Of Totality (Short)“, “Desert Dancer”), but I did feel it lacking in grit.
When Leroy is put into prison, for example, it looks like a day camp. And when he gets out his mum buys him a new camera to replace his old, broken Minolta. It’s as if she’s praising him for being arrested. I know we’re meant to think she’s feeling guilty, but still, it doesn’t sit quite right for me.
Speaking of his alcoholic mother, we don’t really see it. She comes home drunk, once, knocks on the door of wherever Leroy is, presumably the bathroom, and then falls asleep on the couch.
She isn’t abusive, she is still holding down her job. All of the ‘peril’ in Leroy’s life seems light. I know that any ‘bad stuff’ in a child’s life is, well, bad, but it feels like the message would have been harder hit if Leroy’s life had seemed that much harder than it actually does.
A Million Eyes is a good short, it’s well directed, wonderfully acted by all involved and has a nice score, I just feel the message isn’t quite in focus enough.