Wale, Raphel Famotibe (“Possum”, “Casualty (TV)”) is free – after eighteen months in a juvenile detention center, he is back home in his neighborhood, spending each morning trying to launch his mobile mechanic business by promoting it to passers-by.
No one bothers to look at him and even less so to take his business cards, but he refuses to go back to his old ways and the easy money it could bring him, even when his friend Rondo, Roger Jean Nsengiyumva (“Tomb Raider”, “Armchair Detectives (TV)”) tries to push him towards it.
One morning, he meets O’Brian, Jamie Sives (“Get Him To The Greek”, “Mean Machine”), a man willing to listen to him even after he learns about Wale’s criminal past, and who, coincidentally, has a defective car in need of repair.
O’Brian entrusts his car to Wale and lets him borrow it so that he can work on it on his own in his workshop. Everything seems to be going up for the young man – that is until he realizes that this providential opportunity might have been a poisoned gift instead.
Barnaby Blackburn’s short film immerses us into a day in the life of a man who wants to reinvent himself in an unforgiving world, especially when one is black and guilty of past wrongdoings.
Wale is a strong and touching character from the very beginning, and with the support of his mother, Clare Perkins (“Eastenders (TV)”, “Holby City (TV)”) he is determined to lead an honest life and swear off his past for good.
Only a character so opposite Wale could play antagonist to his story: O’Brian is indeed sly, malicious, and most of all privileged thanks to his money, status and whiteness.
With only a few acting credits to his name, Raphel Famotibe still proves himself more than able to play off a seasoned actor like Jamie Sives; his talent and charisma carry the short film throughout its twenty-minute runtime, the camera almost never leaving him out of sight while the supporting cast also give their all with not one person being out of place.
The film is, in a way, divided into two parts: before and after O’Brian tricks Wale. The first part is filled with wonderful shots of Wale enjoying his newfound freedom while riding a bike out in the open, appreciating the view of the city while on a calm, meditative moment on his balcony or riding O’Brian’s car, happy to have finally found a trusting client.
The score that accompanies these moments is both beautiful and foreboding, like a heavy gust of wind propelling Wale high and above while reminding us that a storm might be coming: and indeed, once Wale gets tricked by O’Brian, the extreme close-up shots on his face and the darkness of the night surrounding him create a claustrophobic sensation that makes us regret ever more intensely the large open shots of before and realize how despairing and frustrating Wale’s situation has become.
Although the film could have easily ended five minutes before its actual end with a predictable yet still appropriate ending, another twist comes in to breathe hope into a situation that only becomes more and more tense, creating a near perfect ending to a near perfect short film.
In the film’s runtime, not a single scene seems unnecessary, Blackburn using every tool at his disposition to craft a beautiful story in-between hope and despair that we never wish to leave so soon.