I saw this when my wife dragged me to a screening in New Haven of the thesis films made by Yale film students. I usually cannot stand student films because they are typically amateurish, pretentious, poorly made, avant-garde merely for the sake of being so, or lacking of any real story. But I was genuinely impressed by this short film MIDNIGHT SON written and directed by Adam Davenport. I was shocked that this level of film-making could be attained by a student, as its technical skill and deft hand at storytelling reflect the sensibilities of a real filmmaker, not just a wannabe purporting to be one.
The story is clever as it begins as a simple premise but takes on complexity as the plot progresses. And by the end, the film has somehow managed to make us empathize with a man who has done something that is more than morally repugnant. We certainly don't understand all the circumstances but we feel sorry for this very sad and disturbed man.
The film is absolutely gorgeous with first-rate cinematography from Tom Stern, who I see also shoots Clint Eastwood's films. There is a great attention to detail here. And the way Davenport uses music to accentuate drama and tension in the film, especially the climactic incorporation of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker," puts this kid in Kubrick territory.
The acting is terrific across the board. Jack Mulcahy pulls off the most difficult kind of role. His every glance and gesture creates a portrait of a man who seems uncomfortable in his own skin and acts out of need rather than desire. Melissa Leo of HOMICIDE fame is also a revelation as the prescription drug-dependent wife who is in denial about her husband's private life. If the film could be expanded into a feature the part would be an absolute guarantee for a Best Supporting Actress nomination, as it's a great role that older actresses rarely get to relish.
How a student managed to attract and assemble such a seasoned ensemble of talent in front of and behind the camera must only be a testament to the strength of the story and to Mr. Davenport's own tremendous talent as a storyteller. Hollywood should let this kid direct whatever he wants. I will definitely follow this kid's career and can't wait to see what he comes up with next.