Full disclosure: InReview was provided with a screener for the following film.
America has a large gun violence problem stemming from loose regulations in certain areas of the country, as well as our abundant supply and access to firearms. Luis Gerard’s 2022 short film “The Wake” is yet another short film that puts gun violence front and center.
The film takes place in an unspecified part of rural America, where brothers Walter (Isaac Kragten) and Martin Carpenter (Zander Colbeck-Bhola) steal from the deceased clients of their mortician father, Gary (Robert Fulton), who is a heavy smoker and doesn’t approve of Walter’s lack of direction in life, who is the older son, aged 15. Their mother, Ivy (Patty Sullivan), shields them from their father’s outbursts, but both are not that involved in their children’s lives, so they are free to roam around and do what they want.
Martin is deaf, and his family communicates with him primarily through sign language. He’s also too young to properly understand the trouble his brother is getting him into, as he has to be instructed what a gun is when Walter swipes it from the house of a client, and Walter also has to explain to him that they should only be stealing items that they can sell.
The film’s central conflict kicks off when Walter gets separated from Martin while in a client’s house and one of their loved ones unexpectedly comes by. Martin, being deaf, has no way of knowing about the intruder, which adds to the intensity of the scene.
I won’t spoil the film’s ending, but suffice it to say there are about three places the film could’ve ended, and the first one would have been the best. It feels like either Gerard couldn’t decide where to end the film, or he was using it as a means to demo his filmmaking skills. Ending point 1 feels like where a high-caliber indie film would have ended, as it’s very beautiful and ambiguous; ending point 2 is a twist ending the likes you’d see in an M. Night Shyamalan film; and ending point 3 feels like where a serious drama would’ve ended the film.
Overall, “The Wake” is enjoyable, even though it has a pretty bumpy landing. I liked the setting of the family funeral home, and I wished we got more of the dynamic with the parents — it gave me flashbacks to reading Allison Bechdel’s “Fun Home.” It’s cautionary tale about gun violence and how children don’t take the threat guns pose seriously was well-articulated, and I like how Walter’s need to wield it — as well as smoke — was clearly influenced by his overbearing father, whose approval seems like it was rare.
Clocking in around 20 minutes, this is a little longer than most of the short films I’m sent, but I think it used its time well. I actually think more short films should aim for runtimes around this — only so many stories can be effectively told in 10-15 minutes, so if you need to have the equivalent runtime of an episode of a television show, that’s OK by me.
“The Wake” gets a 7.5/10