In Company, a short film written, directed, and edited by Katie Parker, James (Benjamin Stubbs) takes the first steps to heal his broken heart and find a newfound faith in romance. A short film that gets its main point across in very little dialogue, its lead character still only marginally steps beyond his comfort zone.
Simon (Jacob Taylor) is a charming local that frequents the nature trails where James sketches. Simon begins attempting small talk with a completely caught-off-guard James. Taylor is engaging, and his character’s cool confidence is a nice juxtaposition to the shy James. James manages to build his character well despite the little dialogue he has. But the montages that splice together James’ daily routine quickly become repetitive. James is lonely, ignoring flyers for speed dating events and calls from his friend who wants to set him up on a date that Saturday. James wants to find connection, but he doesn’t know how, so he retreats to the woods everyday to sketch out his romantic daydreams. And then he gets lonely again. In this way, James’ character doesn’t reach the depths he could, and instead remains stuck in an emotional spiral.
Several shots in Company are well-contrasted, clear images that highlight the setting of the piece. Though not every shot is well-balanced, sometimes letting would-be points of interest drift off-screen, as a whole the film communicates James’ mental state clearly. He inhabits a duo-toned world, where the home he presumably once shared with his partner is now just storing reminders of his heartbreak, and the overgrown trails where he paces and sketches are his sanctuary.
The film’s contrasting shot composition can be extreme. The chartreuse outdoor shots, reflected in Simon’s wardrobe, are countered by James’ home which is a dimly lit, deep purple den, and this palette persists with the same intensity throughout.
Regarding score, the same two simple chord progressions reappear to signal James’ hope and despair. In the first half, James’ walks are accompanied by a minor-keyed piano tune. After fleeing a potentially flirtatious interaction with Simon, he goes home and attempts to create a dating profile, with a funky techno beat in the background. When that feels like an impossible task, he returns to the woods and the minor key of a piano chimes in once again. James is constantly cycling through frustration, sadness, and hope. In the end, the set design and music make the already cyclical nature of James’ mental state feel insurmountable.
It is always refreshing to see mainstream love stories told with diverse casts — in this case, gay middle aged men. It is a film that, despite its production hiccups, is vital to the normalization of tenderness and male companionship, not just for the LGBTQ+ community. . . but for us all.