Directed by Derek Frey | Reviewed by Rohan Bhattacharya
Our lives are filled with instances that shape us into better versions of ourselves in the long-run. Some of these circumstances are happy or depressing, and some are simply awkward. Despite all of these embarrassments, these “Awkward Endeavors” define our personalities, and often bring us closer to other awkward individuals. Derek Frey’s aptly named short, “Awkward Endeavors” tells us a similar, awkward tale of three men, whose lives are entangled by a rather cumbersome thread: a thread of circumstances, that they might have desperately wanted to rid themselves of. While someone makes it out of this awkward mess with a smile on his face, and a song in his heart, others were not that lucky.
The film starts with a long-shot of a man sitting in a pizza delivery car with a house behind him; while he looks at his reflection in the rear-view mirror, we hear the faint sound of a piano. He picks up a music book, and heads out with confidence. Interestingly, as he lifts the music book, we see a guns and ammunition magazine underneath it. By the way he carried himself, it was somehow understood that he was going to meet someone he was romantically interested in.
With merely expressions, the actor was able to make the audience relate to his character, and bring about an air of nostalgia that might have resonated with many of us; that anxiousness one feels when they head out to propose the love of their life. As the man approaches the house, the sound of the piano booms. He knocks, and the door is opened by a man he had not expected to see. The man invites him inside, and after an awkward exchange of one-sided greetings, the pizza delivery man enters a room where a woman teaches piano to a child, who is extremely good at it. Later, we realize that the man who had opened the door was in-fact the woman’s husband. Nevertheless, the pizza delivery man was determined to propose the woman today, and so he did. However, things didn’t go quite as he had expected them to.
Despite the premise of the film being quite simple, the director has beautifully handled the cinematography, it almost felt as if he was intentionally trying to add on to the awkwardness that was brilliantly built by actors and their splendid performances. Awkwardly rigid shots, and occasional close-ups of the expressions added on to the awkward beauty of the film. Moreover, the choice of wider lenses while shooting indoors with the pizza delivery man, and the piano teacher was appropriately made; it brought about a sense of openness to the homely teaching environment. Similarly, the director’s choice of lens for outdoor shots of the husband, and his friend was extremely appropriate, and blended well with the context. The shots felt claustrophobic and tense, and we could visually relate to what the husband was feeling while he could literally see the pizza delivery man trying to make a move on his wife. Derek Frey’s use of natural lighting, and color palette can certainly make the audience relate more to the scenes in the film.
It is truly strange how the audiences can relate to almost all the characters in some way or the other. We have been in the shoes of the pizza delivery man, trying to confess to the person we have developed a crush on. We have also been in the shoes of the insecure husband, who loves his wife so much that he’s afraid to lose her. The director’s treatment of the husband’s friend as a character was beautifully executed; we could see how someone’s words that might have been important in any different situation became white noise to the husband whose mind was on something more important to him.
Finally, the book on guns and ammunition and the leaf-cutter added intrigue in the film. Some in the audience might feel something dreadful might transpire at the end; however, it was quite pleasing to see that they served a completely different purpose altogether. While the pizza delivery guy sacrificed his passion for guns in order to learn the piano for the teacher’s sake; the teacher quite literally cut him out of his life by pointing the leaf-cutter at him!
Rohan Bhattacharya is a video editor, filmmaker and writer. His film Komorebi won the second prize in ‘South Asia Japanese Language Short Film Competition,’ organized by The Japan Foundation, New Delhi and his latest film “Tsubaki” has been screened at the Tokyo Short Film Festival in Japan. His production house Sunkaku Productions makes movies in Japanese language to create a bridge of culture between India and Japan.