Reel Love Fest 2021 Review: Funny Face

Directed and written by: Tim Sutton
Starring: Cosmo Jarvis and Dela Meskienyar
Cinematographer: Lucas Gath

On the third day of Reel Love, the centerpiece film presented two rebels of Brooklyn, NY in a stylish anarchist drama/crime romance. Tim Sutton’s Funny Face is a tale of modern young love where these two directionless Brooklynites meet in the most New York place you could imagine- a bodega. Saul (Cosmo Jarvis) is angry by the fact that his grandparents’ house, where he also resides, is being bulldozed and replaced by a parking lot. The other angry half of the romantic pairing is Zama (Dela Meskienyar), who seeks freedom from her strict family. Together, the pair set off on a self-discovering anarchic journey as they rage against the machine.

Sutton’s feature discusses the oppression behind the gentrification caused by the rich developers. They are so easily willing to destroy hundreds of livelihoods in order to make themselves richer. As a consequence of this narrative, there is a clear villain in the story, and the heroes are none other than our two leads Saul and Zama. The distinction between these roles are presented by Saul wearing a mask bearing a huge, creepy smile while the greedy developer- the one responsible for the project that will tear down Saul’s home- seems to wear a perpetual frown on his own face. This odd choice was an interesting aspect to use to contrast the two viewpoints, but it bears no further necessity for the narrative or film, unfortunately.

Courtesy of Reel Love Fest

There is, however, such a strong attempt to provide a message in the film, but it tries to deliver it without actually saying much. The silence in the film is always accompanied by a beautiful shot, which often times featured the creepy mask and a colorful sky behind it to soften the tone. This reliance on visual appeal over narrative resulted in a feature that left me bored at times. But Funny Face‘s visual storytelling entertained me enough to keep me wanting more.

But when the film is not concentrated on its visuals, there are scenes that help elevate the film beyond surface-level entertainment. For instance, Saul’s true feelings are spoken out loud in an emotional and frustrating monologue. Cosmo Jarvis (who plays Saul) shines in the film and in this scene especially. The furious outburst caused by the Nets expands on the character’s frustration and paints the picture of the reasoning behind his anger. It’s a standout moment in an otherwise mediocre film.

Despite the Funny Face’s limitations, there is a lingering sweetness in all the bitterness . Saul and Zama find company and solace within each other’s presence. The two are partners in not only fighting for justice in the cruelty of New York, but we see through small gestures just how romantic and caring Saul really is towards Zama. Director Tim Sutton does a great job with the dialogue and action, here. Instead of using Saul and Zama’s conversations as a way to notify the audience of their feelings, he chooses to show the audience their sprouting romance through action, which ultimately works to the film’s advantage.

Pushing aside my strong annoyance for the film’s obnoxious score, the stunning scenery and cinematography won me over along with Jarvis’ performance as a frustrated hero in the company of another. These are two people just trying to let the voices of the voiceless be heard. And he does it all while keeping quiet with a big plastic smile on his face. This film is an example of how creative intent can help push a story .

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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