Never, ever go in the cellar.
Money, top-shelf special effects, A-list stars, multi-million-dollar marketing: none of these things either separately or all lumped together are a match for the surest component of a successful film – a great story. American Beauty benefits from Kevin Spacey’s portrayal of Lester Burnham, but it doesn’t need him; you put someone like Tom Hanks, who passed on the role, in Lester’s shoes and you still have a great film. The same can be said for Forrest Gump if Bill Murray had played the titular role (he was offered it first, but also passed).
The gist of all this is, if you have a great story, you can have a great film whether you’re making it on a large scale or a small one. Case in point: today’s short film selectin Two Birds, from writer-director-editor Brendan Beachman, which is an ultra-low budget, six-minute film made with all the grace, skill, panache and intelligence of a feature with a 10-million-dollar budget.
The set-up is simple – a young woman goes down to the cellar and learns a startling secret about her girlfriend – but where Beachman takes it will make your skin crawl in the best possible way. Avital Ash, who plays Flynn, is a perfect “final girl” – smart, cautious, but also too curious and too trusting for her own good. Sarah Greyson, who plays her girlfriend Eve, gives a memorable performance despite – shall we say – “limitations.” And on the technical side, everything works: the sound design, the color, the cinematography, and Beachman’s direction, which is taut and measured and causes the story to unfurl at a painstaking pace, one that raises your pulse rate a tick every second until arresting it with a thrilling, spine-tingling and blood-curdling conclusion.
Two Birds is graceful, elegant, intelligent, boasts a deceptively simple set-up, emotionally-resonant performances, and masterful direction from a filmmaker to watch. After Two Birds, be sure to hop over to Beachman’s Vimeo page and check out his other work.