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  • Kyle Snape

Riverboat (SHORT FILM REVIEW)

Runtime: 26 Minutes

Director: Jack Burney

Cast: Jack Sutherland, Sophie Fisher, Emily Marven



Riverboat is the newest short film from British filmmaker, Jack Burney. Over the last few years, he has made a variety of films which usually take very traditional and contemporary stories but use very experimental storytelling and filmmaking techniques to try and push the boundaries for how films can be presented to a new audience. With his latest, this one is no different, following a dark and disturbing story of an Afghanistan war veteran living out on his boat as his past makes his mental health and world view start to crumble apart before his eyes. What he has been able to accomplish here is not only very strong with how he’s been able to direct more traditional acting scenes as of late with a great cast on board, but also how he is able to still integrate his more surrealist imagery and sound design in a purposeful way to disorient the viewers as if from the very mindset of this veteran and his corrupted head.



Following a really great intro sequence just led by stunning images and eerie music only to be followed by it being just the visuals of a war veteran trying to drown himself, Riverboat opens with a mostly simple set-up about a man following his time in the war trying to settle down in his small boat away from most of society. The film simply through its use of cinematography and lighting helps to give this film a very claustrophobic and anxious feeling based on both the context of the scenes and simultaneous ambiguity behind it all. The thinner aspect ratio squeezing everything together helps exaggerate this feeling to its benefit and the dark lighting during nighttime sequences gives off reminiscent feelings of arthouse horror movies to create consistent and intentional unease as we see our main character slowly descend into madness.



Riverboat from beginning to end never holds the audience’s hand and it’s cleverly done in a way to get you inside the head of our main character. There’s plenty of moments and dialogue exchanges between the man and his partner and her sister that are solidly written but also give off the idea that something isn't right. Mixed in with the mysterious imagery and constant guesswork based on his own backstory and previous trauma, it all gives Riverboat a nightmarish fantastical edge that uses visual and vocal language to try and translate a person’s crumbling mental health into something that can be experienced through film. And despite some of the sometimes questionable filmmaking choices with some of the daytime lighting and occasionally mixed sound design with the dialogue exchanges, it doesn’t stop Riverboat from missing its potential creatively. It’s an impressive character study as well as a solid metaphorical and psychological drama that makes Jack Burney a filmmaker to keep an eye on.



FINAL RATING:- 8/10 (GREAT)



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