In the context of the ways in which we categorise our own entertainment, drama is a term that can feel almost uselessly vague. After all, dramatic moments can crop up in any story—no matter what genre it defines itself as. A comedy can still take time for a heartfelt conversation between two characters. A science fiction, or fantasy, story may be built around relationships that feel entirely real and genuine. Even a horror story might take a moment to explore feelings of grief regarding a character's (doubtlessly horrifying) death.
Pure drama, though, is a genre that defines itself by these moments. It's a genre that entirely devotes itself to exploring themes that are, for lack of a better word, dramatic. They can be bleak and depressing sorts of stories, of course. But there's also plenty of room for stories that are hopeful and uplifting. They can also be romantic, or tragic, or tense—exploring subject matter that could range anywhere from love and family to crime and corruption.
Whatever form they take, these are the sort of stories that most depend on establishing a strong sense of connection between the characters and the audience— due to the simple fact that their success is almost entirely dependent on convincing you to feel something that the characters are feeling.
Below is a list of five great short drama films which, in my opinion, all manage to succeed at this quite admirably.
The Most Beautiful Thing
A socially awkward kid, who I'm sure many of us can easily relate to, is only barely able to work up the courage to say 'hello' to a girl, only to be immediately disheartened by her complete lack of response. But, as it turns out, she isn't ignoring him—she's actually deaf. After the inevitable awkwardness that results from this unexpected development, the two quickly go on to become close friends. But with the 'all-important' end of year prom quickly approaching, is there any chance that they could become something more?
As love stories go, The Most Beautiful Thing is, admittedly, a fairly standard one. It is one full of angst and emotion, and one that contains various misunderstandings of both the comical and dramatic variety. It is, at heart, a short film which fully embraces all of the discomfort of being a teenager in love. As a result, it is also a film which seems to be in almost constant danger of devolving into the worst sort of melodrama. Thanks to the impressive performances given by its two very likable leads, though, the film never quite reaches that point. Instead, it is a film which proves to be both charming, and genuinely touching.
To watch The Most Beautiful Thing, just follow this link.
An 18-year-old boy attempts to track down the mother who had abandoned him shortly after he was born, and who he has never met. Depending on the kindness of whoever is willing to stop for him, he makes his way slowly across New Zealand as he continues his search. Things seem to be going reasonably well, until the most recent person to pull over for him turns out to be a rather intimidating looking older man, with a Swastika tattooed onto his face. Naturally, the boy is hesitant about accepting this man's offer of a ride. Ultimately, the lack of any better option convinces him to take the chance. As they travel together, the two begin to share details about their lives, and find themselves bonding unexpectedly.
Hitch Hike is a film which, obviously, presents a scenario intended to play with its young protagonist's expectations. Ultimately, neither the intimidating and potentially dangerous older man, or the woman who may be the biological mother he searches for turn out be quite what he expected them to be. This is something that is made fairly obvious to the viewer, of course, since the moral of the story is made fairly clear from the moment we first see that tattooed older man. But thanks to a great script and some impressive performances, it is still fascinating to watch.
You can watch Hitch Hike by following this link.
The Last 3 Minutes
Based on the classic idea of a person's life flashing before their eyes in the moments before they die, The Last 3 Minutes is a simple and elegantly told tale. An elderly man, simply trying to finish his work for the day, suddenly collapses in pain. Unable to move, or even call for help, he can do little more but lay where he fell.
For the next three minutes, the viewer is invited to share this man's thoughts in his final moments—experiencing a jumble of memories from throughout his long life. What makes this sequence so interesting is the first person perspective of each of these memories. Whether it's his life with his wife, his experiences as a soldier, or even his earliest memories as a child, the viewer shares them with him in a way that can't help but feel intensely personal.
You can watch The Last 3 Minutes by following this link.
Stop is a very straightforward film. An African-American teenager, just trying to make his way home after baseball practice, is stopped by police—finding himself targeted by the 'stop and frisk' practice employed by police in New York City.
It's a simple film, sure. But it's not necessarily an easy one. The film does, after all, play strongly on issues of race and racial profiling, with the strong possibility that this particular teenager was only stopped because he happened to be black. It also raises the question of the morality of the whole 'stop and frisk' practice, itself, and whether it's right, or even useful.
What's most interesting about Stop, though, is that the film manages to do all of this without feeling the need to make any grand statements about its subject matter. Instead, the film opts to let the viewers draw their own conclusions, as they watch the events play out. In the end, it's the sort of film that I can easily imagine inspiring very different reactions for different viewers.
You can watch Stop by following this link.
We Were Awesome
Returning to their hometown for Thanksgiving, two life-long, though increasingly estranged, friends head out for a night of drinking. As the night draws to a close, they find their way to the top of a hill, where they had spent so much time when they were younger—intending to watch the sun rise, as they had so many times before.
We Were Awesome is a film strongly based in feelings of nostalgia for the past—that sense that things were simply better back then, and the accompanying feeling of regret that your life should have changed so much. It's a fairly obvious theme to explore, but the film manages to do so in an impressively subtle way. We Were Awesome is a film which manages to be both genuinely funny, and a little sad, as we follow a conversation between these two old friends which manages to feel genuine, and entirely natural.
You can watch We Were Awesome by following this link.
© 2019 Dallas Matier