Written and directed by Ryan Jafri, The Call takes place in 1965, in the apartment of a unnamed man (Tom Martin) over the course of one very stressful day. Our protagonist is involved in a long telephone conversation in which he is trying to convince his overbearing boss (Alex Hebert) that he should keep his job.
The deadline to a project imperative to “the firm” is fast approaching. But the numbers are unexpectedly full of discrepancies, and Shirley, a mysterious character, may or may not be to blame. Is she incompetent? Or is she a saboteur, out to steal our lead character’s job?
The attention to detail in The Call is impressive, the sparse nature of his apartment, a copy of Life magazine scattered about. The choice to shoot in black and white was effective – the look of this film (Armaan Virani) is top notch. It’s sleek and sharp, but also brooding, seamlessly matching the menacing atmosphere of the script.
But the mysterious nature at the heart of the film was both its greatest strength and weakness. The specific stakes of the plot seem purposefully vague. And, while this is part of what makes The Call intriguing, it is ultimately what makes the audience less invested in what happens next.
Perhaps, because this enigma loomed so large throughout, we don’t care as much as we should about our main character. This, despite a precise and solid performance by seasoned actor Tom Martin. His peril and his desperation palpable. But his layered and focused performance overshadowed the tone and delivery of his boss, whose performance was a touch exaggerated and over the top.
The consistent ticking of the clock became an unfortunate and repetitive device, unnecessarily causing a short, thirteen minute film to seem longer than it needed to be.
Still, the twist at the end was a thought provoking one. And while it was strong enough to encourage the audience to reconsider everything we’d seen up until that time, it was also a moment that arrived too little and too late.