Emma, played by actress and writer Rotem Weiner, a girl in her 20s, moves to New York after graduation from university and starts looking for a job. She attends several interviews, but fails to get the ‘you’re hired’ call. On the morning of another interview, everything goes wrong for her: she puts needless pressure on herself and fails at being efficient during her morning routine, and while rushing to catch her train, she bumps into another woman on the street and spills coffee on her white shirt. She proceeds to experience a truly horrific interview, in her opinion at least, which leads her to tell her mother that the entire city seems to hate her. A homeless man working as a rubbish collector approaches her while she’s sitting on a park bench, and the two quickly form a bond.
'Bench' is a simple but proper name for the film written and produced by Rotem Weiner and directed by Charles J. Ouda, as a park bench always constitutes the facilitating environment of Emma and George’s meetings. The starting point of their conversations is represented by Emma’s frustrations with the direction of her interviews and her general lack of self-confidence, but the subjects quickly diversify and escalate. As they regularly meet and have lunch together in the park, a special occasion pops up, but then coincides with a revelation related to George’s past, which complicates matters.
Without spoiling the plot, but still offering a clue about the main topic of the short film under review, it deals with raising awareness about PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) in individuals who have worked in the army and have been directly involved in military operations. It shows how people struggle to adapt to normal and peaceful living conditions after experiencing overly-stressful and life-threatening conditions in combat. While it does not reinvent the wheel, and its set of circumstances does not differ greatly from those in similar productions, this does not affect its effectiveness in conveying the desired message, which is aided by its short and to the point structure, as well as the parallel with Emma’s struggles, which are serious in their own self, but of a different nature.
Most of the film’s elements are well-done: the writing is qualitative, the direction is coherent, the cinematography and visual grammar are pleasant, and the actors play their roles very potently, especially the lead actress who does a very good job. Knowing that, when an actor researches a part, it takes weeks, sometimes months, to get inside of a character, but not for her, as she looks very natural, adapts quickly to each situation and does her part very well. At times, we have observed problems with the voice localization, to the extent that it is sometimes almost inaudible, and at other times sounds very muffled. While not a great problem in itself, it sometimes disrupts the flow of the film and that is a pity.
However, this does not detract from the fact that 'Bench' is a well written, quality production, that should appeal to a wide audience and furthermore, its ending should be effective in raising awareness about the issue at hand.