After an unsuspecting car journey results in the emotional breakdown of her relationship, Ashley crashes the car. Instead of calling for help, she panics and flees the scene. Can she overcome her guilt and the suspicions of her police officer father in the short film Passenger?
Nancy Page’s Passenger is a fascinatingly grim and doom-laden piece of neo-noir, that gives very little away in dialogue. It’s a film that asks its audience to think, question, and come to their own conclusions. There are no easy answers during this film’s 14 minute run time, in fact, there are not really any answers at all. It’s a film that will leave a lot of people satisfied and a lot of people puzzled.
The immediate influence is David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, both pieces sharing a female couple, fractured structure, and a certain lack of continuity. Passenger is ominously dreamy as if existing in its own nightmare, but this isn’t the horrific or shocking type of terror, it’s more to do with the psychological aspects of menace and sense of foreboding. From the outset, things do not look good for our couple.
Opening with a great 90 degree angled shot of our friends lying down that transitions seamlessly to another shot, we are instantly struck by the cinematography of Joe Mullen. His camera work is some of the best we’ve seen recently. The choices he makes, undoubtedly with the help of his director, manage to tell us more about these characters than dialogue ever could. A slowly moving close-up allows us to imagine exactly how our protagonist is feeling at the exact moment they are feeling it. Cuts between characters give us the same sense of unease that each of them has, while handheld moments, tracking shots and quick-fire cuts add confusion to an already confusing situation.
The most linear and straightforward parts of the short happen around the halfway point when the daughter finally plucks up the courage to confront her father. These scenes are perfectly pitched and completely naturalistic. We believe these actors are family, the truth between them is palpable. Without telling us anything, we know that both are struggling with each other. Dad is, if not disapproving of his daughter’s lifestyle, then certainly very uncomfortable with it. Towards the end, there is still no real communication between the two of them, yet the silence is deafening.
Both Boo Miller as Ashley and Mark Scott as Dad are extremely powerful in the quieter moments – a sign of great acting; saying everything they need with a look or simple gesture. Gzi Wisdom as Dania has her moment too, the opening scene as she wakes, eyes shining, she gives us a smile that can light up a room.
I’m always excited to see a short film made by a female director because there are so few of them around. Passenger does not disappoint. Page is a recent graduate of Bournemouth Film School so credit also to the teachers who helped enhance the natural talent Page undoubtedly has.
With an obvious love of movies, genres, and obligatory shots, Page also has an eye for the cinematic while garnering great performances from her cast. A definition of film noirs is that they are about characters who have committed a crime or a sin, who are immersed with guilt, and who fear they are getting what they deserve. Well, Nancy Page has committed an excellent film to celluloid, one she was immersed in, so I’m going to give Passenger and Nancy Page a well-deserved five stars.