In most cases a reviewer’s job is quite easy when it comes to reviewing a film. They analyze it, break it down, and then basically put some sort of label or stamp on its parts and that allows them to generally come up to a reasonable conclusion. Morning After defies all of that. I have thought about it over and over, and yet struggle to use some of the same analytical techniques as I have with other films. So, let me start off by making one thing perfectly clear. I very much liked this short film! My difficulty in analyzing and labeling this film is that its subject matter rejects the idea of labels, and that is why this movie stands out as wonderfully as it does. This short film tackles the socially accepted idea that we must all be labeled, stamped, and put in a box. By doing away with that concept, and instead presenting an idea that is both old and new, I am forced to take a new approach. I must be fluid in my thinking.
So what can I talk about? Let me start with the cast…
The film stars Thomas Vallières as the almost repressed Michael, who has come back home to Montreal after being away for two years. His friend Edward, played by the multi-talented Kristian Hodko (who not only co-stars but also wrote the script), decides to have a welcome home party in honor of his friend. Also invited to this celebration are Edward’s sexually adventurous friends Teegan (Zoé de Grand Maison), Alex (Joey Scarpellino), and Dana (Jordana Lajoie). This is also an ensemble film, but on a small and intimate scale. In fact, except for the opening and closing scenes of the film that show off the beauty of the Montreal skyline, this entire story takes place in Edward’s home, and it is here we see how well this cast works together. While the movie is mostly about Michael, director Patricia Chica makes sure that all the other cast members have their time with the camera on them, and the acting balance between each of them is amazing. Whether it is focused on only one, or if it’s with the entire group, their chemistry is so beautiful that you don’t feel like you’re watching a movie. Instead you feel as if you’re in the room with them. You get to be that fly on the wall watching as each character discusses his or her views on sexuality. But it is when they put a twist on the classic game of “spin the bottle,” only in this case it’s spin the box of chocolates, that their true faces begin to emerge, all except for Michael. This is one of Vallières’ finest moments. We don’t see Michael’s true face, rather we see his mask, and it bears the expression of discomfort and disconnectedness as he sees these new people, and his friend Edward, totally liberated from the need to hide or wear a mask. Even when the atmosphere becomes too much for him and he goes into the bathroom and washes his face, it is almost as if he were trying to scrub that mask off. Throughout all of this Vallières’ performance doesn’t miss a beat. He neither overplays or underplays any scene in this film. Each moment is acting perfection. It is no wonder that this fine actor has been accepted at LAMDA in London, England to pursue a Masters Degree in acting.
Another beautiful aspect to this short film is the direction and cinematography. As the director, Patricia Chica takes some of the story’s ideas about energy and implements them in with this film, creating something that is more than just honest and truthful. She takes us on a spiritual journey along with Michael, but through such beautiful subtlety that the viewer probably doesn’t even know it has happened, except to say that perhaps those who watch this film might also experience a connection and awakening. Patricia has always used color palates in ways that do more than just pull the viewer in. She manages to create something that becomes visceral to the viewer. From the cold, stark Serpent’s Lullaby (which used an ice blue color palate) to the rich red tones of Crimson Dance, she knows how to use color palates and the energy they convey to provide an almost subtext for this film. Each color palate used in this film represents a specific chakra (the different centers of spiritual power in the human body) that mirrors Michael’s journey. What is so beautiful about it is it starts with the red chakra and by the film’s end we have arrived at the purple chakra, visiting all the colors of the rainbow along the way. This particular use, and the order that they are used and what the colors represent, mirror the Rainbow Pride Colors used by the LGBTQ community. That, along with both the story and the outstanding acting, makes Morning After a true Pride film for ALL people in both message, and quite literally, spiritual energy.
We live in a world where people want to apply labels that separate us, but as the character Alex points out, the universe is in a constant state of flux. It’s always changing and evolving, and we are all along for the ride. To divide us through labels only serves to deprive us of that universal journey and the energy we can share with one another.
Morning After has been selected to screen at 2017 Creative Minds – Festival de Cannes – Programming Block on May 26th, 2017 at 8:30 PM, Palais des Festivals, Theatre Olympia 2, at Cannes France. Check out the Press Release from ChicArt Public Relations to learn more.
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