Updated: Jul 29, 2020
Jacob, a young homeless man is striving to change his situation. After countless failed job applications, he has his one shot to turn his life around.
One of the types of movie all too rare in the short film medium is the good, old-fashioned underdog story. Adding to an extensive list of shorts including the 2015 drama Runaway, Tom Ruddock puts his considerable skills to work, telling the story of a man who has made a lot of bad choices and appears to be the very definition of a lost cause.
An interesting narrative choice is starting the film after the protagonist, the titular Jacob (Sam Watson) has already begun his path to redemption. We get a bit of exposition by phone (application rejections, voicemails from loved ones telling him to stay away) but where the film really shines is depicting the everyday obstacles that can prevent someone from turning a bad situation around as well as the myriad ways in which old habits can rear their ugly heads, threatening to destroy any progress made.
If the story can be distilled into a core question it is ‘what is your why?’ Great drama presents its protagonist with situations that they are generally ill-equipped to deal with, forcing them to reveal their character by having to make decisions under pressure. A great strength of a film such as this is taking the mundane and reconstructing it into seemingly insurmountable obstacles, not only creating compelling drama but also getting the audience to think about so much of what they take for granted and how difficult it would be to stop a downward spiral if something as simple as being able to charge a mobile phone were taken away from you.
Impressively, the film does well in terms of the amount of locations covered. Shot primarily in Hackney, the film takes place in homes, subways, park benches, canal boats as well as central London. Given the film’s 10-minute duration, it is impressive that we get a healthy cross section of London, illustrating the rootless existence that Jacob has been living when we meet him at the start of the film.
Character acting is key to making a film like this work. To this end, Sam Watson does well to carry the film, appearing in every scene and relentlessly embodying dedication, desperation, fear and regret throughout the rollercoaster ride that is his possibly last chance to turn his life around. Additionally, Lasharne Anderson does a fine job as Jacob’s former partner Rachel, having the unenviable task of communicating just how much damage Jacob has done without being able to exposit specific incidents. Her balance of pain, anger and fear never feel forced and she is able to tell us just with her eyes just how much she wants to be able to trust Jacob, but at no point drops her resolve to protect herself from the pain that Jacob has clearly caused. Max Williams is also a wonderfully hissable villain, revelling in playing the devil on Jacob’s shoulder. From the moment he appears on screen, he is able to telegraph that he is not to be trusted, impressively through doing very little.
As with his previous work, Ruddock infuses this story with humanity. Without being preachy either about the circumstances of homeless people or in pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, Jacob’s Blessing is above all about hope and whether it can be taken from you by crushing consequences or if your ‘why’ will give you the push you need to hang onto that hope no matter how battered and tattered it becomes.
Studio: View 35 Films | Year: 2019 | Genre: Drama | Duration: 18 Mins | Suitability: Mature
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