One summer evening, a group of friends sneaks over a fence into someone else’s property, making the most of the fact that the owners are away for the night. They take a dip in the swimming pool and even find an outdoor bar with a selection of drinks on display. As Hazel, one of the girls starts a monologue about existence and alternate dimensions, the others become unsure about whether or not reality is as straightforward as we normally take it to be.
In its brief runtime, ‘Hazel’ explores a multitude of ideas that challenge conventional beliefs and established norms. Through her short and complex monologue, the main character – who also lends her name to the project – wonders about the existence of ‘others’ across the universe. The word ‘aliens’ might immediately pop up in the audience’s mind, however, that is not the full picture. What director Sara Eustaquio explores here is perhaps more related to the multiverse theory, quantum mechanics and the butterfly effect. It relates to the idea of variables, where the result of a decision will span events similar in nature, but different in their own right.
What is interesting about this short film is that Hazel does not merely challenge the audience to take note of the little details, and try to look closer in order to find the ‘truth’. She instead addresses this request directly to her friends, and thus indirectly to the audience. By seeing their reaction and supplementing it with ours, the sense of surprise and wonder resulting from it is even more palpable than it would have been otherwise.
The acting might not be exactly top-notch, and the interactions between the characters might at times feel a little bit awkward, but ultimately, this does not become an issue. The monotonous tone of ‘Hazel’s dialogues and monologues can be compared to the tone which Yorgos Lanthimos’ characters utilize in ‘The Lobster’ and ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’, in order to establish a degree of rigidity, distance, and otherworldliness. And the latter is a word which perfectly encompasses the nature of ‘Hazel’ – it starts with a seemingly normal friend gathering, and expands into something much more, all while retaining an ordinary backdrop.
‘Hazel’ does not need to escalate, understands how to pace its ideas, and knows when to end in order to make maximum impact. While it might not be a masterpiece, it’s a thoughtful movie which makes one think – and that’s quite a rare treat these days.