It’s a long road to finding and being your true self. It is even longer for those in front of whom the society throws repressive obstacles. Obstacles that sidetrack, manipulate, and prevent an individual from being true to oneself and to the ones they love.
The writer-director Damian Overton’s short film “Papercut” takes us to a brief Uber ride in which two actors are traveling to a high profile awards ceremony in a hope that it will boost their sparking carriers. But as we soon discover, their common journey is a lot more than just a shared commute.
By presenting a character study of two young and aspiring actors – Kane and Gabriel –, Damian Overton tackles the dynamics of a relationship that is constantly being manipulated by the social structures within which it exists. Overton’s tense, organic and utterly charming screenplay puts the conservative and reserved Kane and open and impulsive Gabriel in an enclosed environment – the back seat of a car – to confront their relationship, just before an event that could possibly change their life and their carrier. In that little space, where emotions are unable to escape and every word reaches the listener with full power, Kane and Gabriel need to make decisions about each other. About their feelings, expectations, and more importantly, about their relationship that has been hidden from the public thus far.
Overton crystallizes the emotional, psychological, and social aspects of this process beautifully and engagingly. The witty and honest dialogue both deepens the characters piece by piece and binds their relationship to a wider context without being too heavy or artificial. Kane’s and Gabriel’s motivations are drawn sensitively, while every little detail of the narrative builds their nature. The delicate and conscious direction sparks Josh Kieser and Kieton Beibly to give wonderfully sincere and nuanced performances as Kane and Gabriel. Their compelling chemistry displays the complexity of the relationship that is influenced by their expectations and the expectations they think that the social context has for them.
All of above collides within a closed space – i.e. the car – that both symbolize Kane’s and Gabriel’s closeted state and the relationship between them and the world. The emotionally unbiased and intimate camerawork displays the encounter with patience, giving the actors the power to enchant the audience. The camerawork is accompanied by the well-paced editing that highlights the undercurrents of the characters. Although the score is occasionally blandly sentimental, the beautiful work of the actors makes sure that you are not bothered by it.
By exploring the intimate and complex relationship between two closeted actors, “Papercut” deals with socially relevant issues in a relatable, understanding, and delicate way. Kane’s and Gabriel’s Uber ride makes us reflect on how social structures force individuals to act in ways that restrict them from being, who they really are. Restrict them from feeling and loving, i.e. from the fundamental rights that everyone should have. Therefore the message of “Papercut” is rather universal.
Thus, “Papercut” creates an intimate, wonderfully acted, and gently directed space for self-reflection, while being an honest and thematically polished character piece.