There’s mystery all around us, even in small town bars at two in the morning. At least, that’s what Bonding shows us, a short film written and directed by Luke Rex. The film leads us through a world of suspense, thrill, great emotion, and indecision in a mere thirteen minutes. It’s gripping, with a clear character hierarchy, and elements that go unexplained, like a tattoo of a rune on the unassuming bartender. Clearly, Rex has a story here, and he brought together the perfect team to tell it, with stunning lighting and cinematography by Laura Jansen.
Bonding begins with a black screen, and the sounds of a woman’s voice. We are immediately drawn in by the image of Dr. John Flemington (Rex), alone at a bar, on the phone with his girlfriend. At the end of the call, his girlfriend tells him she loves him, and there is a moment of silence where he can’t say it back. It’s intriguing, and creates a desire to learn more about this mysterious Flemington character. After a brief request to the bartender for another drink, we are introduced to Anastasia (Jannica Olin) and Darius (Ryan Stroud), two people who have been looking for Flemington, but we aren’t told why. They request his help with a secret mission, which he tries to turn down but doesn’t seem to be given much of a choice. The bartender (Darren Lipari) tries to trigger Flemington’s memory by setting a rune on his check, but Flemington doesn’t seem to recognize it, and then leaves with Anastasia and Darius.
Despite the film being only 13 minutes, it delivers a lot of story for that amount of screentime. Yet, there are so many unanswered questions. Despite it being a short film, it has the potential to be the opening to a feature length film, with unanswered questions like what is Flemington’s background with Anastasia, what does the rune signify, and how does the bartender know of Flemington? There are so many interesting questions raised in the script. The writing is great in that way, because it leaves us as an audience wanting more.
Aside from the writing, the lighting in the film is also nothing short of beautiful. From the first shot in the bar, with golden yellow light shrouding Flemington’s side profile, to the scene in the car, where a muted blue is used to illuminate both Anastasia and Flemington, the colors are a compliment to the cinematography. The golden light used in the bar scene suggests that this is a safe space, but it can’t last, whereas the blue lighting in the car gives a more sinister feel.
The four actors featured in the film all have unique strengths to their performance. We can tell we shouldn’t fully trust Anastasia, yet there is an alluring quality to her. She is obviously in charge of this secret operation, and she is powerful in her speech. Olin’s body language lets the audience know that she has the upper hand and she’s aware of it. Meanwhile, Rex as Flemington is quite the opposite, we know we can trust him, and we’re rooting for him, despite not knowing the entire story or circumstances he’s fallen into. Even while talking on the phone, we can sense his care for his girlfriend, despite not being able to vocalize it. All the actors are very strong in their roles.
Filled with suspense and intrigue, Bonding is a short film many can enjoy for different reasons – be it the story or the complex characters. It’s a story that will keep you thinking. . . and will stay with you for days.