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D: Chris Scheuerman / 16m

Cast: Taylor Hastings, Chris Donoghue, Aaron Baker, Edna Rojas, Beth Cantor, Anthony MacLean, Jordan Smith, Marianne Tikkanen

An intriguing short film from the New Image College of the Arts in Vancouver, 21/12/12 is set an hour before a mysterious event is due to bring about the end of the world.  Various individuals’ lives collide and interconnect, and each tries to deal with what’s happening in different ways.  One man tries to unburden himself by telling the woman he loves about two murders he committed, another gets himself shot while visiting an apartment to buy drugs, and the woman who shoots him finds herself stopping another man from jumping off their building.  At the end, two women witness for themselves the mysterious event.

The question, What would you do if you only had an hour to live, is answered here in a variety of ways.  The would-be suicide is reminded he doesn’t have to go to all the trouble when the event is bound to kill him anyway.  A woman leaves her deluded boss – he wants to make last-minute transactions on the stock market to make himself a rich man when he dies – to find the woman she has been looking for for some time; it’s they who witness the mysterious event.  And the woman who shoots the drug addict, goes out for some air.

21:12:12 - scene

A collection of untidy vignettes that vary in quality and significance, what stops 21/12/12 from being the small gem its writer/director/producer Scheuerman probably hoped for are its unexceptional characters, one-note for the most part, and matter-of-fact approach to the end of the world.  Nobody displays any signs of panic or look upset, everybody is going about their business – the murderer aside – almost as if it were just another normal day in the big city.  On the soundtrack there’s the sounds of rioting and looting, but again, the characters remain unaffected by it.  If Scheuerman is saying that, even facing impending doom, people will remain self-centred and insular – even with the end of the world an hour away – then as an hypothesis he has a sound anthropological idea.

However, the dialogue is awkward and occasionally stilted, and not all the cast are as adept at coping with its idiosyncrasies as the rest.  Two scenes, meant to be overtly dramatic, are undermined by the cast – and Scheuerman’s – inexperience.  One is rushed, the other played more for laughs than it should be.  The photography helps isolate the characters as they face the end, but the editing could have been a bit tighter: some scenes play out a little longer than necessary.

Rating: 5/10 – not bad for a college short film but 21/12/12 is worryingly vague about its intentions; a good idea that works intermittently and at the expense of a cohesive narrative.