+ Recommended – NR, Short, Crime (13 minutes)
Nox is a story about politics, without getting political. It also manages to juggle several different genres without feeling too tiresome for the every-day viewer. The short follows two burglars, Peter (Matt Passmore) and Claire (Brigitte Millar), whose mission is to infiltrate a U.S. senator’s villa. Simplistic, yet awfully endearing to watch; both for the performances, and the superb technical filmmaking (one of the finest shorts we have had the pleasure of reviewing).
With limited production assets and funds, indie filmmakers can have a difficult time developing their stories and putting them in front of the camera; this is true for shorts, too. Many of these filmmakers choose either between style or substance to limit the scope of narration and justify an acute run-time. The choice to omit one from any given production can be consequential for obtaining strong viewership, even from an audience that has their eye on these smaller indie projects. Nox doesn’t suffer from this symptom plaguing the indie film scene, balancing both style and substance to near perfection.
To be considered a decent crime-thriller, a film must meet certain criteria: it must have intrigue and suspense, among other things. To be considered a decent political thriller—in addition to the latter—a film must be able to deliver a meaty plot and succeed in holding the audience’s attention for the duration of the film. Writer-director, Keyvan Sheikhalishahi, certainly has enough filmic skill to mange these critical beats while ensuring an entertaining experience for any viewer. That task, alone, is challenging for any big-time studio project, let alone a small independent team working on a short film.
Even more impressive, is the hand-held camera work from DP Jean-Claude Aumont. From the opening scene, revealing very little to the audience (except that Peter works best with his hands) to a drone shot of a desolate forest on the lakeside, every frame is delicate and carefully planned. The shot compositions—which are influenced by the time-of-day—are cold, yet magically enriched with warm colors; namely the lush greenery in the background and minor details on character costumes. In addition to these wonderfully constructed scenes, Gréco Casadesus and Gregory Cotti’s musical compositions create the dense atmosphere for the story to truly thrive. Their score is accompanied by very professional sound mixing and editing, which are just as important for the tone of the film.
Passmore and Millar have undeniable chemistry, although Millar was clearly given less to do. Passmore does, indeed, have a synergistic presence with the camera. His performance is as layered, and nuanced, as it could possibly be. You can never truly read every reaction that he emotes, and that adds a certain flavor to the mystery beyond the narrative. All around, Nox is simply incredible. It doesn’t hold your hand as you contemplate the meaning of the story but it doesn’t completely isolate you, either. Instead, it has respect for its audience and knows exactly what it wants to be, what it is, and what it hopes to accomplish, all with little-to-no flaws. A gold standard among countless short films around the world.