Hector Malot: The Last Day of the Year | Short Film Review
By AShley Maniw (May 2nd, 2019)
Directed by: Jacqueline Lentzou
Written by: Jacqueline Lentzou
Produced by: Fenia Cossovitsa
Key Cast: Sofia Kokkali
There’s a tendency in a lot modern films to imbue them with starkness so that they feel more naturalistic, more like real life. It makes films more accessible for audiences but can sometimes detract from the dreamlike qualities that film has as a medium. Not everything has to be as big and grand as the staged productions from the early years of film, but a great filmmaker can take our every day realities, no matter how mundane or boring, and still turn it into something magical.
With her short film, Hector Malot: The Last Days of the Year, director Jacqueline Lentzou does just that. This short is a dreamy meditation on the feelings of isolation and loneliness that come at the beginning of a new year when you feel like you’re at a crossroads.
The film focuses on a young woman, Sofia, as she drifts through the last few days of the year. She seems pensive and upset even as family and friends surround her. As an audience, we don’t get confirmation as to what, exactly, is bothering her but that omission makes it easier to feel your way through the film and identify with the characters.
New Year’s Eve is a melancholy time for many and a lot of us have felt that loneliness during the holidays as we look at our lives and our year. Lentzou does an excellent job of portraying that feeling. She uses a lot of tight close-ups on her lead as she walks through a park, as she cries in a church and as she, forlornly, looks for someone to hug and kiss as everyone rings in the New Year.
Unlike literature, it’s hard in film to get inside a character’s head, but Lentzou lingers so much on Sofia’s face that we can feel what she’s feeling. It’s not always easy to convey loneliness is such an affecting way, but Lentzou crafts a film that feels as intimate as reading through someone’s diary.
One of the best things that Lentzou does with this short film is allowing the scenes to play out as long as they need to without editing for length or time or plot points. This technique sweeps you into its world almost immediately. And while there isn't a lot of dialogue, the scenes with characters talking are filled with life and feel so immediate and real - from older male family members telling dirty jokes to girl talk about sun signs and moon phases to singing along to music while getting ready to take group selfies or talking shit about your family with your friends – that it’s impossible not to relate.
As scenes blend into each other and with the use of a gorgeous blue and purple colour palette, Lentzou’s film starts to feel like a dream. Hector Malot is a stunningly shot and emotionally moving short that’s so realized and accomplished that it feels like it could be a feature. Lentzou is an emerging auteur in the film world and really knows how to construct a world and share it with her audience. She is so talented and I can’t wait to see what her next project will be.
- Ashley Maniw