In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that I have a “special thanks” shout-out in this movie’s end credits. That said, the director of this film has asked that all articles about his film be, above all else, honest, and honesty is what Cinefessions lives and dies by. Also know that this is not a review, but simply my thoughts on the film, and everything surrounding it.
Earrings is a terse, emotional, and unrelentingly personal film that shows tinges of genius, and copious amounts of style. It is a shining example of a director showing instead of telling, and relies almost entirely on the acting chops of one talented and beautiful actress, Catherine Warner.
One could say that Earrings had a lot of hype surrounding it before its release, but not because of any marketing scheme, or big name actors/directors. Instead, Alex Withrow – of And So it Begins Films – has been brave enough to share, as completely as he could, his creative process with his readers. Before a trailer was ever released, Alex wrote seven articles on a range of topics, from pre-production all the way to the editing of the film. These are must-read articles for anyone who wishes to create a film, but needs some more inspiration to get them started, and everyone else who is simply interested in what goes on behind the camera. It is in this way, the way Alex has been so open and honest, that many of us readers were so hyped for the film’s final release.
Lots of hype – even hype created in unconventional ways – usually makes for lots of disappointment. Fortunately, Alex is not only a talented writer, but also a filmmaker with something to say, and more importantly, the talent and eye to deliver that message to a broad audience.
The story of Earrings is not spelled out for the viewer, and the opening minutes consist of watching one woman – Chlo (Catherine Warner) – make her trudge through life. There is clearly something wrong with her, but it takes a while before the audience finds out what that something is. Even when we do, there are some questions – mainly of “why” – that never get clear answers, which feels right for this film. Earrings lives in that grey area of life, and the audience is never quite sure where things will go. It could end in tragedy or triumph, and that uncertainty is what drives Earrings to its climax.
Catherine Warner, who also helped shape the idea of this story, gives a sincere and moving performance as Chlo. She is asked to live in the darkest corners of the human psyche, and does so fearlessly. She is never performing, but instead living, which makes all the difference in Earrings. A film this thick in style could have been a director showing off his “cool” ideas, but instead, Alex wisely relies on Warner’s performance to push the story forward. Even in blank stares, Chlo is filled with emotion and life, a life that is on the absolute brink of extinction. Even though Chlo is clearly a depressed individual, Warner’s performance reminds the viewer that there is more than one-dimension to this character; she clearly has a past, and may have a future if she allows herself to.
There is only one traditional scene of dialogue in Earrings, and it lacks the fire of the rest of the film. The way the scene’s composed, it feels like a recording of a theatrical production. The two characters are not facing each other, but rather the camera, making the whole scene feel like a performance, instead of the audience peaking into this moment in the character’s lives, which is where the rest of the film lives. The other aspect of this scene that took me out of the movie was the performance by the male actor, who I believe is Martin McSweeney. McSweeney is nowhere near as personally attached to this moment as Warner is, and it makes for an uneven scene. The dialogue comes off as performed instead of real, and though Alex has made the choice to show a good deal of this conversation with long takes, the editing room may have been the place to help keep the pace of this scene up with the rest of the film (which, even though there are slower moments in the rest of the movie, the inner life of Warner keeps the pace up, so it never feels “slow”).
Where Alex never misfires is the impeccable use of music. He makes use of a wonderful Radiohead song called “How to Disappear Completely”, which feels like it was created specifically for this movie. This plays in wonderful contrast to one of the other songs used in Earrings, entitled “Intro” by M83 (which is the same band who provided the music for the trailer of the film). It’s difficult to say anything more about the music without getting into spoiler territory, but I can’t stress enough how perfectly placed each track is throughout the film.
Earrings deserves to be seen, and by a large audience. It’s my absolute hope that this is just the first we’ll see of Alex’s work. I can’t wait to see him tackle a feature-length film in the future.
For as long as Alex Withrow has something to say, thanks to Earrings, he’ll always have an audience that’s ready to listen.
This film was released by Second to Last Chance Productions on July 28, 2012. Earrings (2012) was written and directed by Alex Withrow. The film is 33-minutes in length, and is not rated.