A woman seemingly tries to escape from an abusive relationship in the experimental and psychological short film A Road To Nowhere by Sayef Zaman.
Experimental films aren’t uncommon, and we at Screen Critix have seen our fair share of them over the years. Some are confusing, and some manage to relay the right amount of information so the viewer can understand what is going on, while a few do leave just enough hints regarding the plot but are ambiguous to a degree so we can make our own minds up about what we have just witnessed. I believe Sayef Zaman’s short film A Road To Nowhere falls into the latter category. We do get bits of information from the visuals and narration, but it’s not all offered on a plate to us, so to speak.
Opening up on a shot of a car pulling into a parking lot overrun with pigeons, a woman (Kellianne O’Connor) carries some black trash bags to a recycling bin. After depositing the load she was carrying, she returns to her car, and we get to see her driving around a rather picturesque small town in the USA. This is followed by shots of her in a diner, walking down a woodland path, by some playground equipment, in a house, and through a graveyard. All the while, we listen to a disturbing voice-over provided by actor Thomas J O’Brien. The man seems to be desperate to gain the woman’s forgiveness first, as he begs for her to talk, but then, as the film continues, he starts to become ever more abusive with name-calling and threats. We never hear her replies, only his voice, and we never see him either, we just see her going about her day, obviously after things have come to a head with the man we hear throughout.
For me, a Road To Nowhere has a very mid-70s style to it, in terms of how it is shot. There are no stable shots from using a dolly, gimbal, or Steadicam, and the grading seems rather raw. It reminded me a little of what you would expect a snuff movie to look like or that of Wes Craven’s seminal The Last House On The Left from 1972. It felt like I was watching something I really shouldn’t be, which if that was Sayef Zaman and Director of Photography Imran Khan’s intention then they succeeded. Though, I will say, that while they are showing bits of the woman’s day following an event that has changed her life forever, they maybe could have also been a bit more selective with what they wanted to show, as the abundance of car shots was a little overused, and some shots of grass swaying in the wind looked blown out.
Thomas J O’Brien does really well with his voice-over. As aforementioned, we never actually see him, but we follow his emotions through his voice as he goes from desperate to threatening over the course of the thirteen-minute runtime. O’Brien has collected a few awards on the independent festival circuit this past year for his work on A Road To Nowhere, and it’s easy to see why.
Obviously shot on next to no money at all, Sayef Zaman has done very well with what he had at his disposal. Many of the crew members doubled up on roles, and I can honestly say I have never seen a film where the first AD also acted as the Boom Operator. Also, the script by Ivana Windel is good, with the dialogue well-written.
A Road To Nowhere is a rather unusual short film with its voyeuristic feel, but it works as a short piece and is sure to strike up a few conversations from those lucky enough to have watched it.