Months after losing his job, a man is still unable to tell his wife in director and writer Craig Trow’s short film The Manager Position.
Usually, in the opening few lines of Screen Critix reviews, we like to mention the genre of the film we are reviewing. This is a little difficult with Craig Trow’s 15-minute short film The Manager Position because the film doesn’t allow itself to become pigeon-holed. The concept itself isn’t particularly original, but the way it is made, and the tone delivered by Trow throughout the film are. The short leans mostly towards drama, but it also has moments of comedy and the plot is pure fantasy, meanwhile, IMDB has it listed as a mystery.
Opening with a nice overhead tracking shot of our every-man Philip Talbot, where we see him in an empty and abandoned office, sitting on old boards with debris strewn about the place and wires dangling precariously from the ceiling. It soon becomes obvious that this is a post-pandemic world in which the once flourishing business where Philip had worked for many years has not survived the lockdown. All alone in this empty space, he eats sandwiches and reads Post-it notes of positive words and sayings all day.
One night during dinner, his wife asks him the simple question ‘how was work?’ and his answer leads him to create a story in which he hasn’t lost his job but has in fact been given a big promotion to a ‘management position’. It is at this point that the film begins to become fantasy as Philip returns to the same empty office each day only for it to start filling up with more staff and more equipment that Philip takes charge of. Once becoming the boss, Philip starts to lead the company to enormous success. Unfortunately, it’s not too long before reality kicks back in and the truth of Philip’s management position actually becomes clear. Philip is played by actor Curtis Cook Jr, and he makes for a great every-man; he’s the audience’s way in and manages to provide the needed impetus to occupy the center of the short. We see this imaginary world through his eyes and believe it.
His journey from depressive and unemployed lackey to manager works well because he seems like a real person whose experience we can all identify with. We must also give a mention to Jackie Hoffman as Philip’s secretary Helen; a familiar face on our television and cinema screens Hoffman brings a touch of class to this small-yet-pivotal role. Charlie McElveen as TJ, the closest thing we have to a villain, also makes a great impression.
Owen Hamilton’s cinematography is lush with browns and yellows contrasting nicely with the white open spaces of the office. The choice of shots helps with the overall mystery of the film. There are close-ups and wide shots, montages, and quick cuts, and the camera is always changing positions, which means we (the audience) are left a little confused and never sure of what is real and what is not. A nice simple touch is also the family dinner table, which begins life as a long piece of furniture with Philip and his wife quite distant on opposite ends, but as Philip becomes more successful the table gradually gets smaller leading to him and his wife becoming closer.
Winner of the 2021 SC Short Film Indie Grant, The Manager Position is a film of genuine quality. Trow’s direction is sharp and he doesn’t waste any shot. His screenplay, despite focusing on a story we have seen before, still manages to make some new points, with the only downside being that it’s probably not quite as powerful as it should be. That said, The Manager Position is a fine film deserving of favorable comparison to the works of Jason Reitman and Alexander Payne.