Dysfunctional relationships are such a popular topic that it is difficult for any director to create an extremely original project on this subject. Thus, ‘Good Counsel‘ is not a short film that necessarily impresses with its narrative content, but with its unpredictable construction that suddenly shatters the viewer’s expectations. Specifically, David J. Levine orchestrates an emotional shock, deceiving his audience with the relatively classic (or cliché-like, some would say) context of a young couple facing a crisis, to suddenly cross the line between domestic realism and thriller. Of course, this equation doesn’t lack in complex psychological stakes, characters with hidden intentions, gestures and facial expressions that camouflage destructive emotions, but the great quality of the project that goes beyond the formula of a more or less cheesy psychological drama is the spontaneity and certitude of the director who changes the rules of the game. What is even more interesting in this equation is that this sudden turn occurs so spontaneously and yet so well-conducted that the viewers are not necessarily convinced that they are witnessing a series of concrete events or only the mental projections of a character. Thus, a couple therapy session suddenly becomes a confrontation on another level that makes the frustrations of the people involved exceed the parameters of a domestic conflict.

 

David J. Levine proves a lot of talent in managing to convincingly manipulate the emotions of the spectators he shocks, while leaving them to face the uncertainty of actually witnessing only the hallucination of one of the characters. Technically speaking, the director plans a sudden transition, changing the objective perspective on the couple with the subjective perspective of the male character who, in turn, no longer seems to be able to differentiate between reality and his own destructive thoughts. The credible narrator in the first half of the project is replaced by a diffuse, uncertain perception of events, and this aspect creates an impactful aura around the events that enhances the magnetism of the narrative core, inviting viewers to seek answers on their own. Likewise, the “pure” and cold aesthetics, the geometric frames dominated by monochrome shades and the absence of music that exacerbates the heavy and treacherous silence between the characters make ‘Good Counsel’ an intense, unpredictable, and compelling experience.

 

For the talent with which the director handles this emotional shock and for the harmonious way in which the components of this short film combine in an unpredictable experience, ‘Good Counsel’ was awarded with the 2nd Film of the Month distinction in the December 2020 edition of TMFF.

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