Play Violet for Me (2015)
Directed by Matt Mercer
Starring Najarra Townsend, Matt Mercer, and John Paul Romeo
As a society today, we accept that a large amount of information about ourselves is out there for the taking. Our social lives are on Facebook, phones with all of our conversations logged can be hacked, and basically everything that makes us a person is available in some avenue of information. But what if someone knew so much about you that they became you? And you being alive posed a significant problem that needed to be dealt with… This scary question revolves around the relationship of two twin sisters, one of which that decides that the other needs to go. But which one is which?
In a very Memento inspired style, Play Violet for Me tells the story of the twins through an obsessed lover enamored with sister Violet in both the present and the past. The time perspectives are shown the same way as the Nolan film, past being portrayed in black and white, the present in full color. We are also given a taste of some delightfully old school noir style, complete with dark shadows concealing characters save for the cigarettes that grant brief illumination in a dusty bar. Director Matt Mercer who also stars in the film has a definite love for old school cinematic beauty and the dedication shows.
At its’ heart, Violet is a murder mystery with the added twist of trying to figure out which twin was killed (that’s not a spoiler, the murder victim is revealed in the first few minutes so don’t hate me <3). Viewers are brought into the story through conduit Foley (Mercer) who had the unfortunate luck of being the first to find the body and is now trying to grill the other sister for answers. It is here where the story loses a little focus. Given the short run time, there isn’t a whole lot of time for the film to establish backstory or character relationships so we are just expected to understand that two characters know each other when they meet, despite not having seen any interaction between them before. It can be rather disconcerting, especially when these relationships are made to be so important, especially between Foley and other twin Lyla (both twins played by Najarra Townsend). Toeing the line between being tantalizingly ambient without being utterly confusing is a tough feat to pull off no matter how experienced of a director you are so I at least give them credit for trying. Sadly, even though the twist is finally revealed at the end, which under better written circumstances would’ve been fantastic, is dampened by this lack of cohesion.
But that’s not to say it’s a bad film. Though it may take a little more thinking than it should, the plot is clever and refreshingly original for a “who did it” story arc. The ambient background score is fittingly eerie and accompanies the visual perfectly. The performances are definitely above par for our two leads (I guess technically three since one plays both twins) and the end has a cliffhanger that is completely up to interpretation and will have many a viewer scratching their head. The style is fantastic and is an obvious love letter to other unique murder mysteries. Being one of the best indie shorts I’ve seen in a while with one of the most original plots I have seen in years, Play Violet for Me earns a 8 out of 10.
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