Torchlight (2020) short film review

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A reluctant debt collector for a funeral home must pay a visit to some old friends who have defaulted on their loan. We take a look at the short drama Torchlight.

Torchlight 3 300x125 Torchlight (2020) short film review

Director and actor Andy Kastelic’s ‘Torchlight’ is an ominous and brooding film about incidents that have happened in the present involving childhood friends who are emotionally linked from being together in the past. As adults, their lives have settled into uneasy and not always socially acceptable routines. The script of Torchlight, written by director Kastelic, uses a group of gifted actors who are able to find true human emotion in a dark family story that could have been melodramatic but manages to look deeply into the lives of others and evoke a large amount of honest pain.

The film centers on 3 characters who are all connected to each other, debt collector Charlie Malloy (Kastelic) and his friends, a brother and sister, Samuel and Violet West, played by Gennaro Leo and Sarah Minnich. Their father has recently died and Malloy is here to reluctantly collect the funeral fee from them. The other major character is Malloy’s Uncle Terry, played by Jack Forcinito, who not only owns the funeral home but also acts as its chief bailiff and enforcer; Terry’s job is to rough up the clients when his nephew’s softly softly approach has failed.

Although elements of ‘Torchlight’ play according to the form of a chamber piece, the film is more than a simple view of grief and poverty; it is about pain that has spiraled down through the years, about unspoken secrets and unvoiced suspicion. It is also about the loyalties of friendship and how, no matter what we go on to do in life, our feelings for those we once loved always seem to remain the same.

Even though the story does eventually arrive at a conclusion, it is not about any solution at all. Torchlight is about the past catching up with the present and it provides each of its actors with great moments that test their acting chops. Both Leo and Minnich are hugely believable in their performances as the siblings whose problems are all of their own makings and leaves them above their heads. Kastelic’s Charlie finds the right amount of anger and empathy for the situation and balances this perfectly with his frustration at the position he has been left in.

Torchlight 202x300 Torchlight (2020) short film reviewMeanwhile, Jack Forcinito is a hugely powerful presence as Uncle Terry who, despite his behavior to the contrary, likes to tell others that ‘I’m not a bad guy’. Forcinito only has two scenes but he makes them count. We expect him to explode with violence at any moment, yet he always remains inward, calm and smoldering. The cinematography by Jannis Schelenz is always interesting. We have beautiful but brief shots of sparklers against a sunset at first, then the next we are in confined spaces surrounded by green, red and blue lighting choices that help give the film a gritty-look, suiting the tone down to the ground. The visual style also helps tell the story and differentiate the separate locations.

A few weeks ago, I reviewed another of Kastelic’s short films Typhoon, this also starred Forcinito. Typhoon was a story about an escaped convict being redeemed by a child and was made by much the same team as Torchlight. I felt then that Kastelic was a true artist with an enormous future and gave typhoon 5 stars. Torchlight is a completely different film, yet what it does is simply confirm that the previous statement to be correct. Kastelic is a genuine talent because he has made another terrific film showing a deep rapport with the characters and his actors who are all allowed painful moments of truth. To see strong acting like this in a time of flashy directors who cut and edit their films like music videos is a pleasure.

It’s obvious that Kastelic has a brilliant team around him and together they have the balance exactly right. What they all need to do now is put their heads together and make the jump to feature films. A move that, due to the talent on show here, should take them all into the upper echelons of the business. Directors grow great by taking away the layers, not adding to them and Kastelic does nothing for show and everything for effect.

5 / 5 stars     

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