What happens when a sociopathic man comes across with two friends, impregnates one and does something unexpected with another? What is the effect of deep love, which makes people blind over certain aspects of the person whom one loves?
Ryan Bennett, a versatile filmmaker from New Zealand, answers such questions and some more in his third short film that is provocatively called “Eric Hanged Himself”. The modern morality tale tells a short domestic story about Jenna, her best friend Tracey and Tracey’s boyfriend Eric, the latter of whom is the root of all evil in the story. So, these three characters form a soap opera type of dynamic full of betrayal, tears, pregnancy, cruel intentions (yes, this is a nod to the late 1990s movie “Cruel Intentions”), manipulation, and exploitation.
The story starts with introducing suspicious looking Tracey and the full on pregnant Jenna talking on a phone about Eric, who has allegedly killed himself. Where the thematically tactless (hint the title and the main motif) film does with the soapy premise from there on, though, gets rather interesting. By playing with the spectators’ attention, “Eric Hanged Himself” makes the storytelling multilayered, which means that the casual activities the characters do during dialogues are more meaningful than the things they often say. This approach turns the story a little more intriguing, while demonstrating the skills of the director-screenwriter and the co-screenwriter Benjamin Rider, whose script is tightly written and well energized. That is, the script, events, and characters are presented functionally, while they seem to hold water, although the premise might sound absurd, when pulled out of context.
The young and upcoming actors Elizabeth Dowden as Jenna, Arlo Green as Eric and Fiona Armstrong as Tracey truly materialize the motifs of their compactly written and directed characters. Their dynamic and solid performances carry the film that is constructed around the morality and immorality of the characters. And in that the film reaches its goals in studying shortly but effectively the interplay between morals and personal goals, love and friendship.
The events are depicted by efficiently present cinematography by Lance Wordsworth, while the meaningfully paced editing supports the storytelling by giving it a good rhythm and communicating the meanings that the story conceals in action and visual storytelling. The narrative is accompanied by road trip vibe soundtrack that is part of establishing the atmosphere of the film and the feeling of departure, which can be easily associated with the themes of the film. The set and costume design emphasize the domestic drama tone, while making the story more plausible.
Although the film is far from reaching the goal of joining “a larger conversation on abusive relationships and manipulation of women” and only depicts some aspects of the problem without any proper comments, “Eric Hanged Himself” reaches very close to justifying its too offensive and provocative title and poster, which really doesn’t reflect the narrative, tone nor the essence of the film. If to pass this misdirection, one can conclude that “Eric Hanged Himself” demonstrates the craftsmanship of its authors, especially in the field of stylish editing, convincing acting and determined directing. And oh, of course, conclude that men suck.