The Secret Friend is a short film by independent writer-director Flavio Alves. Because it is fifteen minutes (or one-eighth the run time of your average Hollywood film), writing a full length review is simply not possible. So today, we here at Flixist are going to try something new. Associate Editor Sean Walsh and I both watched the film, and we had a back-and-forth discussion about the film (although, if you’re just a score-hound, we have those as well). So check below and see what we think.
Alec: I don’t see a whole lot of short films, but I definitely think they can offer something that feature films can’t simply by virtue of their length. I like the fact that The Secret Friend can be seen during a lunch break or when you just have a moment that you want to relax and think about something nice.
Sean: I don’t see many of them either, and it is something I’d certainly like to change, and hopefully The Secret Friend will be the start of forward momentum in that aspect. It was a darling of a film and even though it was only fifteen minutes long, it tells more of a story than a lot of films these days.
Alec: It certainly did, though I feel that everything was a bit rushed, especially in the beginning. The opening bit with Siobhan Falls confused me, and I thought she was the mystery caller for a while. Perhaps that was intentional, but it didn’t seem to be. Everything for the first half just moved a bit too quickly for me. After it slowed down, though, it was definitely a darling.
Sean: For those of you who don’t know what The Secret Friend is all about, let me illuminate it for you: an elderly widow (played by Viola Harris) who lives all by her lonesome, begins receiving anonymous phone calls every day at the same time, and while at being weirded out at first, she eventually strikes up an unlikely friendship with the anonymous person breathing on the other end of the phone. One day, the calls stop and she finds herself distraught and goes to great lengths to fill the void. It’s an odd premise executed with expert precision thanks to writer-director Flavio Alves.
Alec: I definitely think that Alves did a great job with the story. As I said, I felt it was a bit rushed, but the direction was otherwise excellent (as was Viola Harris’ performance). Although the majority of the film took place within a small home, the imagery was was varied enough to keep it visually interesting.
Sean: With a cast you can count on one hand, it’s always nice to have strong players. As Alec mentioned, Viola Harris is utterly sensational as the lead. Siobhan played the worried neighbor as well as could be expected and the gentleman who works at the phone company (Richard Scott) felt totally authentic as that customer service guy who is unflinching in his mid-level management role when it comes to helping our heroine on her quest.
Alec: I agree about the phone man, but I think Siobhan was actually the worst part of the film. She was so frazzled (presumably because she has children… or something) that she didn’t really seem all that sincere in her supposed “worrying.” The came across as a bit too exposition-y for me, and it didn’t really have much of a pay off. Also, as noted before, it confused me.
Sean: Now that you mention it, she did seem a little insincere. Maybe the better word is obligated. But enough about nosy neighbors, let’s talk about that ending!
Alec: Not to spoil anything, but I think the ending is an incredibly nice way to tie up the story, while allowing it to continue on. Endings are difficult enough when you have two hours to tell a story, but when something like this is told in one-eighth of that time, it seems impossible. However, it is pulled off with grace, and I honestly let out a little, “Awwwww” when I saw it. It’s really a cute movie, and absolutely worth seeing.
Sean: I concur. I was filled with warmth at the conclusion to The Secret Friend, and it has since gotten repeat viewings. The Secret Friend is easily one of the best shorts I’ve seen this year and it definitely has more heart than most of the Hollywood releases this decade. If you have fifteen minutes to spare, I can’t think of a better way to spend them. Kudos, Mr. Alves.
Alec: Kudos indeed.
The film is being released in limited quantities on DVD at the end of September. For more information on the film, visit the website here. Seriously, it’s a really enjoyable film, and completely worth actual money.
Sean: Overall Score: 84 – Great.