Overview: An actor returns home after losing a gig to face the struggles of adjustment, relationships, and the unemployed life. RockSet Productions; 2016; Not Rated; 95 minutes.
Circus Act: Son of Clowns is very much an actor-driven film. Early on, the film’s main protagonist makes the point that in order to competently act, one must first listen. The scene is relatively long compared to most of the other sequences in the film. It’s framed through a select few number of shots that stay focused on the character, signifying that the audience must, too, play close attention to the film’s expressions. It’s one of the many scenes of its kind in which writer/director Evan Kidd makes the actors the pulse and drive of the film.
The film is quick to establish Hudson Cash (Adam Lee Ferguson) and the loss of his show. He returns home to his family who work in the clown entertainment business. He tries to find his footing in life but can’t seem to escape his self-destructive tendencies. Ferguson delivers a solid performance, selling the mostly unlikeable traits of his character, with his stubbornness and sarcastic humor, but also grounding the character with his desire for true expression. He is a stand out in a movie where the actors are already meant to stand out.
Kidd’s direction and Ned Phillips’ cinematography occasionally flourish and help to give Son of Clowns more character. There are interesting blocking choices in some of the interior scenes that support the script, by subtlety setting up characters, indicating tone, and occasionally even setting up visual comedy. Even on surface value, Phillips’ shots are pleasing, if only he was given more time to relish in the scenery.
Walk A Tightrope: The scenes prior to the opening title sequence are a good representation of the entire film: a fast-paced film that relies on actors to recite its themes and push forward its story. On paper, that’s not such a bad idea. There have been a number of films that have actor-friendly narratives in which characters express themselves and the themes of the film through long monologues (the recent Birdman comes to mind). However, Son of Clowns’ brisk pace does a disservice to the dedication of the actors and the interesting ideas and narrative of the screenplay.
Son of Clowns has a rhythm in which it presents itself. The scenes move quickly, with each new scene being set in a new location. Aside from Cash’s house and car, an alley, a bar, and his girlfriend’s house, no set location is reused. No wide shots establish the next scene’s location; the film just lands in the next scene. All the scenes consist of conversations, between Cash and another person, mostly framed in close-ups and/or a small section of a room. One of the longer scenes of the film takes place in a forest and features two characters talking. After the scene starts noticeably lingering on longer than most of the other scenes in the film, it cuts to the two characters in the same forest but in a different location, still conversing about the same topic.
The limitedness of the picture presented and the brevity of the length of the scenes is really disorienting. It never gives the audience enough time to invest in one scene, which is why some scenes (while good on paper, I’m sure) fall flat in delivery. Getting the audiences’ investment is important, especially in this reflective story about character growth. This rather poor editing also fails the film’s characters and themes. The exploration of themes got slightly convoluted as the film would transfer from scene to scene with a new topic of discussion, and the character of Ellie (Anne-Marie Kennedy) is lost in the shuffle as she is introduced as this cute cashier and love interest, then becomes this deeply wise girlfriend who seemingly knows a lot about life and how to live it in about the span of a half hour. The film would’ve been better served as a slower descent into desperation for the protagonist, with emphasis on the development of character.
Overall: Son of Clowns features an interesting screenplay and great performances but is disserviced by hasty editing.
Featured Image: RockSet Productions