Going against the grain of the current glut of punchline-driven, quick-plotted short films trying to clamor for attention, Sic Transit Glory is an insightful piece dealing with human emotion at a depth many shorts fail to reach due to their limited runtimes. Set for release this fall, the fourth short by emerging writer/director Joshua McQuilkin is a moving visual poem reflecting on the pain of a dying friendship.
From the first moments of the film, I was captured by the artful cinematography and sparse, haunting music, both of which are poised to become trademarks of McQuilkin’s filmmaking voice. While certainly not lacking a hook, Sic Transit Glory chooses not to use its sixteen-and-a-half minute runtime in an attempt to speedily cover plot points, but instead spends that time in the development of the characters themselves. Two friends, Anna (Kate Lewis) and Brigitte (Brittany Horn) are reunited for a day after some time and distance apart; however, it soon becomes clear that the space between them has widened, and not just from living in two different cities. Skillfully blending often-sparse dialogue with plenty of symbolism and a dose of David Lynch-esque surrealism, McQuilkin not only endears us to his characters, but also gives us a the slightest glimpse of what they’re thinking and feeling without feeding the viewer all the answers. Lewis and Horn display terrific chemistry onscreen, and what is unsaid between them fills the space even more than what is said.
Speaking of which, between this film and his previous short, Jeune Fille, Joshua McQuilkin is starting to build a reputation as one who delights in leaving things open-ended and subject to interpretation. For example, the complex intimacy between the two female protagonists is likely to stir speculation as to whether something more than friendship exists or ever existed between them—even though there is nothing in the film that directly points to a lesbian relationship. Likewise, the endings of McQuilkin’s films are left vague and even puzzling, perhaps as much to suggest that the story can’t be contained in a short film’s runtime as to provoke plenty of discussion afterwards as to what it all might mean.
You won’t see any low-budget pyrotechnics in Sic Transit Glory—no hot-button topics, no surprise endings, no attention-grabbing gimmicks. What you will find is a hauntingly poetic, visually captivating piece of film that draws more attention to its characters’ emotions than to itself—an art film that deftly skirts the line between drama and avant-garde without being pigeonholed into either category. At the young age of 25, Joshua McQuilkin shows great promise as a writer-director, probing emotional depths that others miss. Filled with pathos, Sic Transit Glory opens a window to the human soul.
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