Uzo Oleh’s Short Film ‘Edicius’ Is Perfectly Paced And Deceptively Simple

Beyond the outstanding technical triumphs of Edicius lies a well-crafted and well-executed story. If your only criticism of a short film is that you want more –  as was my case – then you can rest assured that you’ve seen something truly special. If you come across the opportunity to see Edicius, do so immediately.

The story itself is perfectly paced and deceptively simple: A struggling lawyer has, through desperation, involved himself with a dangerous organisation – his reflection suddenly gains sentience, and attempts to guide him to an outcome where he lives. Most of the film is spent in conversation between Jason, our main character, and his Reflection, both acted wonderfully by Michael Socha in a tour de force performance. These scenes portray genuine emotional conflict: The Reflection is coldly logical and has the advantage of some level of instinctual foreknowledge. It knows that Jason will die on his current path, and the struggle of this intuitive force to communicate and persuade Jason into a better course of action is in opposition to Jason’s human emotionality, his connection to his wife and unborn child, and his clear desperation and inability to process a situation where he is clearly out of his depth. This concept is platinum – with a simple sentence, ‘The struggle of an imperfect person with their instinct and intuition,’ Uzo Oleh spins a multifaceted tale with many interpretations as to what it comments on: ranging from psychology and the conflict between rationality and emotionality; to spirituality and the conflict between God and Man; or even modern life, and our sometime inability to do what needs to be done. An interesting story is defined by conflict, and each of us can relate strongly to one or more aspects of this superbly framed conflict. There’s something here for everyone.

This film was written and directed by a photographer: even if you didn’t know that going in, you won’t forget it coming out. Oleh’s talent and long experience bursts from the screen, telling a story through framing, shot composition, colour grading, and any number of other techniques that a layman can’t name, but can experience, and be affected by. This film’s concept and story feels like the perfect alley-oop to the clear effort put in by him, Director of Photography Tristan Chenais, and the rest of the crew to make a great example of the phrase ‘Every frame a painting.’ It begs the question: Did Oleh set out to make a film where he could write a story that could make full use of his talents with photography – or did he come up with an amazing story that just happened to have near perfect potential with regards to making a beautifully-shot film?

Think of Jason and the Reflection – both expertly played by Michael Socha, and yet never do you confuse the two, despite near identical appearances. The film is shot with a clear sense of space, and when these two characters are shown in wide shots of the room, they’re almost always blocked so that they inhabit the opposite halves of the screen. Not only is this a choice to assist us, the viewer, in differentiating between the two, but it clearly establishes the conflict between them. Another example: When we’re treated to close-up shots of the Reflection explaining to Jason his thoughts and ideas about their situation, I noticed several shots coming from below chin level, pointing upwards at him speaking – conveying superiority, and intellect, perfectly showcasing the Reflection’s relation to Jason’s character. Even better, we can see Jason’s motivations portrayed in as simple a shot as him looking at his phone’s lock screen, with his unborn child’s ultrasound staring back at him. The emotional, story, and character beats are consistently reinforced through techniques like this. It’s to the point where I’d go as far as to say you could tell this story just by taking a few shots from throughout the film, and putting them together in a storyboard, with no dialogue or explanation at all. In a short film no longer than twenty minutes, Uzo Oleh has created a lean story-telling machine, with absolutely no fat left to trim.

I can’t go any longer without elaborating on the amazing performances in this film. Michael Socha is of course the standout, as well as being one of only four actors in the whole thing. There is so much credit to be given to Oleh for how he’s managed to tell such a story with his visuals, but there’s just as much to give to Socha for his turn as both Jason and Jason’s reflection. He manages to portray two distinct and yet entirely similar characters, reacting to the other in real time – despite having to act and react to a body double due to the technicality of portraying two characters in the same shot. I don’t know whether this is an actor’s nightmare or an actor’s dream, but it works utterly flawlessly, and the passion Socha brings to the role shines through in an award-worthy performance. The anxiety and desperation of Jason flows through him just as well as the cold, ruthless logic of his Reflection, and the result is an award-worthy performance that forms the core of this film. Of the other three actors, the other highlight would be Stuart Bowman as Anthony, Jason’s contact and reference point for the mysterious organisation he’s due to represent in court. Bowman is the solid squad player to Socha’s star striker, underpinning the threat to Jason’s life through an understated performance, portraying quiet suspicion through a series of extreme close-up shots. This calculating demeanour sells the organisation more as an insurmountable force than anything else, adding weight to the words of Jason’s reflection, while not taking away from their mystery. Without Bowman to play off of, Socha’s fear and anxiety would have no ground to build from, and I can appreciate that immensely.

Leaving the screening, I had only one tiny negative to offer about Edicius: While the film’s soundtrack was good, it wasn’t memorable. It served its purpose of underpinning the story and emotional beats with an orchestral sound that fit extremely well, but it never rose above that. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does represent a lost opportunity in my mind. Uzo Oleh wholly nailed the visual aspects of storytelling, and perhaps it was a conscious choice to have the soundtrack exist wholly in the background – adding emphasis to what was being shown, but never telling a story of its own. Perhaps it would have taken away from the audience’s focus on the visual storytelling? I’m not too sure. Nevertheless, I can’t actually fault Edicius for this, and my opinion of the film stands:

Edicius is a masterpiece of visual storytelling – thanks in part to the grand technical achievement of director Uzo Oleh and his crew – while also telling a well-written story, that can be interpreted in any number of ways, and thus has relatable commentary for the majority of people. The rest of the credit should be deservedly given to Michael Socha, who acts his heart out, selling this film’s story in a way only a great performer could. I hope to see more from everybody involved, especially writer-director Uzo Oleh. Personally, I’d rate this film a 9.5/10.

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