By: Addison Wylie
There are some people who express their feelings openly without thinking before speaking. Often, if something bothers that particular person, they’ll think about what they want to say and think about how they feel, run their inner monologue through a filter and express politely why a particular element or situation bothers them. Others though will hold emotions in; letting this pent up rage build over a period of time. It’s suggested that these people who bottle up their feelings and keep all this anger inside them are the people holding up banks or contemplating blowing up their workplace. The short film Worm follows one of these frustrated souls who has built up an archive of anger over a long period. Worm showcases a convincing portrayal of a character who is absolutely sick, depressed, and furious. The mood of the piece is chilling and is directed with such brute force along with subtle, balanced touches. All of these elements combined makes Worm one of the best, if not the best, short film I have seen all year.
The sun is shining, the air is crisp, and it’s another day at the local high school Geoffery Dodd works at. Dodd, played sensationally by Robert Nolan, walks into his homeroom while maintaining a seemingly pleasant persona and welcomes his students. The students don’t reply. Dodd asks them questions. Dodd receives sparse answers. This, however, has been happening throughout Dodd’s career. As Geoffery looks at the dull group of uninterested kids, a voice within Dodd speaks up; unleashing frustrated, bitter thoughts. Dodd has picked the kids he doesn’t like and he picks the kids he sort of likes. Except for one girl. This one particular high school girl is of Dodd’s attraction. He so willingly wants to confess his love for her knowing it would be wrong. However, this voice chimes up once again; wrestling with Geoffery’s morals. As the day slugs along, Dodd is forced to deal with more apathetic teens but, between classes, he is forced to sympathize and talk to other teachers he doesn’t particularly care for. The animosity bubbles and the hatred building inside Dodd is at its peak. Is it today that Geoffery Dodd finally snaps, as he wields a secretive item hidden inside his briefcase, or does he gulp down his irritation and disregard his inner rage?
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After the screening of Worm, I was absolutely stunned by Nolan’s performance as Geoffery Dodd. Most of Nolan’s role consists of him establishing how he feels with just a mere facial expression as he narrates over the scene. Nolan accomplishes so much ground with this portrayal of Dodd, that if you were to expel the narration, the audience could still tell what exactly Geoffery is feeling and what actions are going through his head. Even though the film is able to counter as a silent film, the narration is also a portion of the film that is brilliantly executed. Nolan’s voice alone can make an audience feel a wide range of emotions as well. Whether he’s very hoarse in his sinisterness or is explaining about the stupidity of his students in a light-hearted manner, his voiceover is always effective. With Nolan’s performance aside, the supporting players do a very good job portraying characteristics that may seem accustomed to them but may irritate other people. Their ability to be completely oblivious of the situation is both aggravating and darkly funny at the same time. Matched with Nolan’s “Are you kidding me?” unenthused facial expressions make the scenes that more brilliant.
The performances aren’t the only aspects on display here. The direction and the technical elements are extremely well done as well. With the prolonged shots of Dodd along with his voiceover, the visuals and the audio fit perfectly with one another; complementing each other in such a way that the audience is glued to the action going on screen even though the shot may just be locked off on Geoffery sitting at his desk, glaring at his class. Director Richard Powell, producer Zach Green, and cinematographer Brendan Uegama are able to make customary, ordinary everyday tasks into something much more eerie. Powell and Green are taking a lot of risks here as well. As I’m watching the events play out on screen, a notion in the back of my head kept reminding me that a short film like Worm would have a hard time being viewed in an early post-Columbine world. Subject matter in Worm comes close to those tragic events in 1999. However, Powell and Green are very competent, professional filmmakers and know how to handle the subject matter without making direct references to a role reversal Columbine-esque happening. Everything is tastefully shot and edited and, even though Geoferry Dodd is an extremely well developed anti-hero, the audience is never rooting for anyone’s demise. The script is also written by Powell and he excels here by penning an successful black comedy. The jokes that Dodd thinks to himself will make you laugh and wince at the same time. Although we may laugh at Dodd taking shots at the various teachers and students of the high school, the audience gets equal pleasure out of seeing Dodd get aggravated by the lot as well. The movie maintains an atmosphere that is reminiscent of a Bret Easton Ellis novel mixed with filmmaking techniques found in a Todd Solondz film.
Worm is a remarkable feat in the short film world. Adding dramatic elements and thriller aspects, Powell has directed a marvellous short film that makes his audience laugh and squirm while bring pulled into the action on screen. It’s a perfect example of how professional, developed acting can be a great help and how, when used correctly, a narration can make a film more layered. I look forward to seeing more work from the minds of Powell and Green.