Stutterer: An Academy Contender
Written + Directed by Benjamin Cleary
Last night I attended the Los Angeles SHORTS Fest. Going to support my partner’s friend (who was in Lonely Planet”), 7 films were presented: PHOD, Steve’s Big Date, Edit<Undo, Adolescence, Lonely Planet, Willa, and Stutterer. As each film was presented, each with it’s own strengths and weaknesses, it was one film that won me over completely. A film that stole my heart and reinvigorated my love of brilliant filmmaking: STUTTERER by Benjamin Cleary.
The best way to describe this film is to simply say that you watch the story unfold and are completely enthralled from the very first scene to the very last frame. The film begins with a man on the phone attempting to pay a bill. The man, Greenwood (played flawlessly by Matthew Needham) opens his mouth – and – in spite of the internal dialogue we hear, that is perfectly spoken with wit and candor, the words struggle to escape his lips and his stutter halts his ability to explain to the person on the other end of the phone that he just wants to pay his bill.
Immediately thrust into the story of Greenwood, you watch, frustrated, that the extraordinary internal dialogue he has going on is trapped in his head. Told in the voice of his internal self-talk, he is witty and wonderfully charismatic as he addresses his flaws and mis-judgments by offering curiously numbered antidotal moments all the while doing all he can to adapt to a world that needs to be able to understand him. There are beautiful moments of clarity and humor between Greenwood’s father (Eric Richard) and, even in moments of total conflict, there is a mixed feeling of triumph and defeat. The catalyst moving the story forward, however, is the subtlety of a rather universal issue of “online” love. A love interest, Ellie (played endearingly by Chloe Pirrie), has given Greenwood an element of hope. Six months of chatting online only now to be faced with the dilemma of “meeting offline”. The question poses both characters with one simple thing: Do they meet or don’t they?
It is an extraordinarily executed film with a screenplay that rivals any Hollywood blockbuster, filled with all of the elements one comes to expect from any exquisite piece of cinema, whether a feature-length or a short. There are no holes in the story or useless dialogue or wasted scenes. Every frame has a purpose, every use of filters on the lens has a meaning, every angle, every lit corner, and more importantly, a subtle soundtrack lends to the weaving together of story. Needless to say, this is not the run-of-the-mill clever short. It’s Oscar-worthy. The topic is refreshing, the writing is refined and charismatic, the cinematography is intentional and pristine, and above all, the acting is entirely perfect.
I will make the prediction that this will win every Festival it stars in and I hope this February, while I sit at the Academy Foundation, that I am watching Director, Benjamin Cleary talk on the panel with fellow Oscar Nominees. Surely, a brilliant piece of filmmaking like this cannot be overlooked.
NEWS: After seeing this film, I put it out into the ether that STUTTERER stole my heart and as luck would have, Writer/Director Benjamin Cleary emailed me. I am honored to say that I will be interviewing him so please stay tuned for an in-depth look at a man who doesn’t see filmmaking as a hobby but rather the soulful nudge that drives him to create.
Stutterer is an Official Selection 2015 at:
Encounters Short Film & Animation Festival, UK (Sept)
Los Angeles International Short Film Festival, (Sept)
Vancouver International Film Festival, CAN (Sept)
Flickers: Rhode Island International Film Festival, USA (Aug)
DC Shorts Film Festival (Washington DC), USA (Sept)
Galway International Film Fleadh, IRL (July)
Edmonton International Film Festival, CAN (Oct)
Matthew Needham as Greenwood
Matthew Needham’s early appearance in Casualty as Toby De Silva made him a familiar presence on British television. He left Casualty in 2009 but returned to television in 2010 to play Bezza in Sherlock and again in 2011 as David Foster in Monroe. Matthew graduated from LAMDA in 2007. He has performed on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal Court, National Theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe. His performance in Brittanicus at Wilton’s Music Hall in 2011 earned him an Ian Charleson Nomination. Last year Matthew played Rafe in a very successful production at the Globe in The Knight of the Burning Pestle written by Francis Beaumont.
Chloe Pirrie as Ellie
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